True, most states have suffered higher numbers of casualties during the four major post-WWII conflicts. California, for example, has lost more residents than any other state, with more than 8,900 killed in the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Persian Gulf War and the war on terrorism (as of December 2014) combined, according to Defense Department data. Hawaii’s toll from those four conflicts is just over 700.
Yet, Hawaii stands out. For example, as a share of its population, the state suffered more casualties in the Korean War than any other state, according to a Washington Post analysis.
Each of the other wars has its own leader in casualties: Nevada saw the most residents die per capita during the Vietnam War, while New Hampshire had the largest percentage of deaths per capita in the Persian Gulf War. Wyoming has suffered the most casualties per capita in the war on terrorism. But, on average, Hawaii’s per capita death toll during the four conflicts combined is greater than that of any of its peers.
The Aloha State has also played a strategic role in the nation’s various entanglements, most prominently during World War II, but also as a key staging area during the Korean and Vietnam wars.
It may have joined the union nine decades after the first Memorial Day observances, but Hawaii has, in its short time as a state, more than earned its right to share in the day’s remembrances.