Since 1775, war has claimed the lives of America’s bravest and this year the tally continues to rise.

Nearly 1 million men and women have died overseas, most recently in Iraq and Afghanistan, fighting for a country that promises life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness to its citizens.

Those who died sacrificed their unalienable rights to ensure others could exercise them. They gave their lives to protect those of us here at home who know war only from the articles we read.

In our country’s first war, the Revolutionary War, approximately 4,435 Americans lost their lives, according to “American War and Military Operations Casualties: Lists and Statistics,” a report prepared by the Congressional Research Service for the United States Congress dated Feb. 26, 2010. Since the Revolutionary War, the numbers have risen dramatically.

The War of 1812 claimed the lives of 2,260 Americans; approximately 13,283 died during the Mexican War; 364,511 in the Civil War; 2,446 in the Spanish-American War; 116,516 in World War I; 405,399 in World War II; 36,574 in the Korean War, 58,209 in the Vietnam War; and 382 in the Persian Gulf War, according to the report.

As of  May 1, 1,044 soldiers have died as a result of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, and 4,386 have died in the Iraq War, according to military casualty information on the U.S. Department of Defense’s Web site.

Figures for soldiers actually killed during battle are much lower in some cases, but a man or woman who died serving our country, regardless of when or where, deserves to be honored for his or her sacrifice.

On Memorial Day we put aside our political views about these wars and recognize the individual. It’s about the son, brother, husband, father, daughter, sister, wife and mother who kissed his or her family goodbye and won’t return to kiss that same family hello.

They left the very thing they fought for never to return or see the difference they made in the world. And for that, every American will forever be indebted to every soldier who lost his or her life fighting for our country.

Since Memorial Day was first widely recognized May 30, 1868, to honor soldiers who died during the Civil War, the holiday has evolved to honor all of the brave men and women whose lives are claimed by war. After World War I, observances shifted to honoring all citizens who lost their lives for America.

In 1971, the U.S. Congress declared Memorial Day an official national holiday to be celebrated the last Monday of May.

This Memorial Day, Monday, May 31, remember those who died so we could enjoy America the way our forefathers intended.