Survey: Nearly Half of Americans Lost Relative or Friend to War

Nearly half of all Americans have a close friend or relative who has given his or her life while serving in the military, according to a national survey by Rasmussen Reports released in time for Memorial Day.

The survey shows that 45 percent of Americans said they have had a friend or relative who died while serving the country. It also found that 40 percent of Americans have close friends or relatives currently serving in Afghanistan.

"While those that gave their all are our heroes, I have this feeling that it is the loved ones of our fallen that are our true heroes, the ones that have to endure the sacrifice of one of their own. Our children, parents, grandparents, or friends, it is not easy to accept the loss when it happens," wrote John Kubicek in his blog post, "The Flavor of Freedom," on Sunday.

Kubicek, 58, told The Christian Post that his high school friend, who was also a neighbor, lost an older brother who died in the Vietnam war.

Although Kubicek was away from home for college, and did not witness the immediate grief felt by his friend's family, the Cedar Rapids, Iowa resident said he still thinks about his friend and his family during times of commemorating the nation's military.

He said that his first thoughts go towards "the pain and suffering of the family that loses a sibling or offspring or other relative." Kubicek feels a connection to military families as well because he served in the Air Force for more than four years.

"As an American who has served in the military, there is that feeling within me that I must continue to do whatever I can to keep the cause of freedom alive. I believe that I must do something today to help with the healing process for those that have lost somebody that was defending our liberty," he wrote in his blog.

"It is my duty to keep the families and friends of those who gave it all for our freedom in my constant thoughts and prayers. They are the ones that have to go on with life without a loved one in their immediate sight... for the time being," he continued.

However, Memorial Day may be less and less about remembering the loss of lives during military service, according to some observers.

Peter Mattice, senior pastor at Grand St Church in Albany, NY, recently wrote in his blog, "Traditional observance of Memorial day has diminished over the years. Many Americans nowadays have forgotten the meaning and traditions of Memorial Day. At many cemeteries, the graves of the fallen are increasingly ignored, neglected."

Mattice said the nation may need to return the holiday to a more traditional day of observance in order to restore a "solemn, and even sacred, spirit back to Memorial Day."

"Many feel that when Congress made the day into a three-day weekend with the National Holiday Act of 1971, it made it all the easier for people to be distracted from the spirit and meaning of the day," he wrote. "As the VFW stated in its 2002 Memorial Day address: 'Changing the date merely to create three-day weekends has undermined the very meaning of the day.' No doubt, this has contributed greatly to the general public's nonchalant observance of Memorial Day."

Dr. Joan D. Williams from Montgomery, Ala., an Air Force veteran, said she lost an uncle in Vietnam. Williams took the opportunity on Memorial Day to send a message.

"As U.S. citizens we are afforded by our constitution: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness...however, it comes with a cost. FREEDOM IS NOT FREE," she wrote to this reporter via Facebook.

Rasmussen Reports conducted the survey of 1,000 adults on May 23-24, 2012. The margin of sampling error is +/- 3 percentage points with a 95 percent level of confidence. Field work for all Rasmussen Reports surveys is conducted by Pulse Opinion Research, LLC.