Attendees at a veteran’s memorial service Sunday in Pine Bluff got a history lesson from one of the men whose organization sponsored the event.
The annual service, always held on the Sunday before the Memorial Day holiday in the Veterans Section of Graceland Cemetery, was sponsored by Hearin-Connolly Post 32 of the American Legion.
In addition to the history lesson, the service featured a first as Army Brig. General LeAnne Burch, a military lawyer and judge from Monticello was the featured speaker for the event.
The service also included cannon and musket fire from Civil War re-enactors based in the Sulphur Springs community, and the placing of wreaths to honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice in the service of their country, as well as prisoners of war and those missing in action.
The history lesson came from military veteran and American Legion member Robert Rhinehart who said that according to his research, and contrary to popular belief, the military history of America predates the Revolutionary War.
Rhinehart said the first actual conflict occurred at Jamestown, Va., when settlers were forced to defend themselves from Native Americans, and a National Guard was formed as early as 1642.
When the Revolutionary War came around, Rhinehart said the population of America was 2.2 million.
“We were a small country to carry on a war against a major European country,” he said. “There were 500,000 people involved in that war, 23 percent of the population, and 25,000 deaths, 1 percent of the population.”
Rhinehart said that if America had not won the War of 1812, “we would have returned to being a European colony.”
He said the war was about trade, and the unemployment rate in the country at the time was “three times what it is now.”
Rhinehart said 2,300 men were killed in that war.
When America fought its Civil War, Rhinehart said 2.2 million people fought on each side, with more than 620,000 killed, and up to 750,000 more wounded.
He said 90 percent of the men who fought in the Spanish-American War were volunteers, the most famous of those former President Theodore Roosevelt. Rhinehart said that war was won because of those volunteers.
“There were 3,000 who died, most of those in Cuba, and most from disease,” Rhinehart said.
His wife, Barbara, had a grandfather who fought in that war.
During World War I, there were 4.7 million people who served in the military, and most of those never made it to Europe to fight, staying in the states to provide support.
Rhinehart said the war claimed 1115,000 lives, and another 206,000 were wounded.
He said 16 million people were called up for World War II, a figure that included 350,000 women, with 300,000 killed.
Rhinehart described the Korean War as a “different kind of war, and what it accomplished, I’ll leave to you.”
In addition to the 37,000 killed and 103,000 wounded, Rhinehart said the Korean War was also responsible for a new term being added to American’s vocabulary, M.I.A., or “missing in action,” with 8,100 being listed as M.I.A. during the Korean War.
Moving on to the Vietnam War, Rhinehart said 8.7 million men were called up, 58,000 died, and 153,000 were wounded, while the Gulf War resulted in almost 450,000 being called up.
Regarding prisoners of war and those missing in action, Rhinehart said figures collected by veterans organizations indicate that there are 83,000 people who are still missing from the country’s wars, 76,000 of those from World War II.
In her remarks, Burke said Memorial Day was not meant to be a “day of mourning” but rather a day to celebrate the courage of Americans who gave their lives for their country.
Noting that Memorial Day is typically thought of as the first day of summer, she said the day should be celebrated and people should take the opportunity to strengthen themselves for what lies ahead.
“Terror will not rest, evil will not die, but justice will triumph,” Burke said.