Almost 850,000 (more depending on how you count) American service people have died in U.S. combat (1775-present). Of those deaths, over 200,000 are attributed to the Civil War and almost 300,000 World War II. Generations have passed since those wars, but you would be hard pressed to find an American that hasn't been personally touched by the tragedy of war.
Recently, I had the privilege of visiting the National Mall in Washington DC. The memorials are as beautiful as they are moving. As I toured them, however, their differences struck me in a way I wasn't expecting.
The World War II memorial, oddly the newest, is an oval shape with 56 pillars representing the US states and territories at the time of the war. Gold stars represent casualties. Flowing fountains, grass, and flowers give it a peaceful vibe. It feels historical, a remembrance of something that happened a long, long, time ago.
Vietnam memorial, in contrast, is focused on the individual. The name of each person who died is carved into shiny marble and you read them through your own reflection. The experience for me was less historical than personal and it was difficult to stay in that space without thinking about the ruined lives, the personal sacrifices.
In The Soulkeepers, the character of Jacob is profoundly influenced by his father's death in Afghanistan. The loss effects the way he sees himself and the world. It tampers with his ability to trust others and recognize the good around him. They say that art imitates life and perhaps this is why war often rears its ugly head in young adult fiction.
Today, just for a day, let's remember the history, but also the real people behind the stories. Each one was someone's child once, and maybe a brother, sister, parent or spouse. And that is something no memorial or memorial day can ever replace.
G.P. Ching is the author of The Soulkeepers Series and a variety of short fiction. She specializes in cross-genre paranormal stories, loves old cemeteries, and enjoys a good ghost tour. She lives in central Illinois with her husband, two children, and one very demanding guinea pig