Memorial Day: Over 324,000 Alabamians have served in the military

By: - May 29, 2023 8:01 am
A group of veterans at World War II memorial, raising their arms in salute.

World War II veterans, their families and military representatives of the countries that participated in the D-Day invasion hold a wreath laying ceremony at the World War II Memorial on the National Mall on the 75th anniversary of Operation Overlord, June 06, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

For some people, Memorial Day means the start of summer, a long weekend to kick back, relax and enjoy the lake or a steak. For others, it is a time to remember veterans who gave their lives for our country.

American war casualties

People who served in the Civil War:  3.26 million

People who died in the Civil War: 500,000+

People who served in WWI: 4.73 million

People who died in WWI: 116,516

People who served in WWII: 16.11 million

People who died in WWII: 405,399

People who served the Korean War: 5.72 million

People who died in the Korean War: 54,246

People who served in the Vietnam War: 8.74 million 

People who died in the Vietnam War: 58,220

People who served in Desert Shield/Desert Storm: 8.74 million

People who died in Desert Shield/Desert Storm: 1,948

People who have served post 9/11: 7.2 million

People who have died serving post 9/11: 25,150+

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, about 324,000 Alabamians (6.4% of the population) have served in the military. Alabama’s veteran population makes up about 1.9% of the 17 million living veterans in the United States.

Each soldier, living and dead, means something to their communities, families and fellow service members.

According to, Memorial Day has been recognized in some form since 1866, just after the Civil War. Though relatively informal, Union veterans organized Decoration Day to decorate the graves of the recently buried soldiers. 

In 1868, Decoration Day was more organized and widespread than the original recognitions in 1866, when only 25 cities celebrated.

After World War I, Memorial Day was observed in honor of all those who died in American wars, not just the Civil War as it had mostly been recognized before. Over 150 years after the first Decoration Day, the practice continues and serves as a time to remember the more than 1 million lives lost in military service, as well as the millions of veterans who died after serving.

In 1971, Congress declared Memorial Day a national holiday, officially to be recognized on the last Monday in May. Some say spring was chosen because flowers would be in bloom, and because it was not too close to other holidays. Cemeteries around the nation are decorated with American flags, flowers and other decorations during May, often on graves of those who served and those who did not. 


Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.