A community tradition is returning this Memorial Day: a reminder of why Americans mark this day as a national holiday. We Are Remembering – Not Just a Number is continuous reading of the names of those who perished in the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq since 2001. Organizers held the first event in 2008, on the fifth anniversary of the conflict in Iraq, when the military death count was nearing 4,000. The number is over 6,800 this year, according to a May 2021 Casualty Report from the U.S. Department of Defense. It will take a team of volunteers about 15 hours to read all those names this year.
"You can't measure that loss with just two numbers," states Founder Tracy Miller. Reading out each service member's name seemed like it would be a better measure of that loss, so Miller decided to organize an event.
The year 2021 marks year 14 for this event, and Miller emphasizes that this event is not a nonprofit nor politically based.
Originally, she said, "Our goal was to be anonymous, so that everyone can be included." The event is still looking for volunteers. Volunteer shifts involve approximately 30 minutes of reading, and the event is held outdoors, rain or shine. Each name is read out accompanied by their hometown and beat of a drum. Those interested can sign up to volunteer online.