Labor Day is more than a day for cookouts and beers. Too often, Americans forget to honor the true meaning of the holiday. The truth is, Labor Day is a solemn reminder of all the troops who have spent their entire military careers on working parties.
Since 1776, soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines in our brave nation have answered the call of duty during times of war, only to find themselves scrubbing mold off the walls of the latrine, or digging dozens of holes in rocky soil only to fill them back in again as soon as they’re finished.
While data on working parties wasn’t formally collected until World War II, it is estimated that over 30 million Americans have spent their entire military careers on a working party since the country’s founding. In the Civil War alone, more than 1.5 million young Americans served the Union on working parties without ever seeing combat.
But fewer and fewer Americans these days personally know a veteran whose soul was crushed by the thankless toil of the voluntold. Only one in four Americans reports knowing a veteran who spent the entirety of their military service on working parties, even though there’s over 2 million such veterans still alive today.
Here’s some particularly memorable moments in the history of the working party to ponder while you celebrate from the comfort of your own backyard:
1991: Congress passes a law officially allowing women to serve on working parties. Since then, they have proven every bit as capable as men in the art of mindless toil.
2005: Cpl. Joseph Utley, USMC is awarded the Navy Cross for continuing to burn barrels full of human excrement in Iraq despite heavy enemy fire.
2009: The National Working Party Memorial is unveiled in Washington, D.C. It depicts a downtrodden squad of Marines picking cigarette butts out of the Reflecting Pool while their Company Gunnery Sergeant sits in the cab of a 7-ton eating a Honey Bun.
So while you’re outside barbecuing and drinking beers this Labor Day, take a moment to remember that out there right now there’s some sorry sack of shit police calling for your freedom.
Cat Astronaut is a demobilized mobile infantryman and the creator of medieval and fantasy satire site Ye Olde Tyme News.