Today is Memorial Day, designated so we can honor the more than 1.3 million Americans who have given their lives fighting to defend our nation.
Boy Scouts will place flags on graves. There will be parades, proclamations, and resolutions. Families will gather. Burgers will be grilled.
But how can we really honor them? Perhaps by helping them.
From 1988-1992, I served in the U.S. Coast Guard. It is a period of time of which I am very proud and for the most part remember fondly.
For the most part.
Usually, my memories pop up and I say to my wife, “I don’t know where this came from but I remember….”
She smiles, tells me it is interesting, and I know at that point it is probably a story she’s heard a thousand times since we met.
But there are other memories. They are unpleasant, and they too pop up from time to time. These memories are vivid and have been sparked by a scene in a movie or book, my girls taking swim lessons, and a variety of other triggers.
PTSD? Not even close. Just bad memories jogged by things that happen around me. But you see, I have it good. I was never in real combat. I didn’t go through what our nation’s real veterans, those who fought, went through.
I think about my memories and I can’t even imagine what a combat veteran feels or thinks when his or her memories come to the surface. He or she faced the prospect of violent death, or having to violently end another’s life, every day while in war zones.
What I experienced, or what most of us experience, is just child’s play compared to that.
But here’s the rub.
Today, 22 veterans will commit suicide.
And we grill burgers while arguing over who can use which bathroom.
Tomorrow, 22 veterans will commit suicide.
And our Presidential candidates will fuss over convention rules, emails, and building walls.
Wednesday, 22 veterans will commit suicide.
And we’re going to bellyache and moan about Nashville being cancelled.
It will go on and on.
According to USA Today, of the 2.7 million who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, some 970,000 have recognizable mental scars.
Memorial Day is a time to honor those who died serving our nation. It should be done so solemnly and with great respect.
But perhaps the best way to help those who died serving our nation is to help those who still live and are suffering from things they saw and experienced while serving.
We do that by giving of money and time. We also do that by expecting more from our legislators, Congressmen, and others in a position to help.
Maybe we can honor those who died by stepping it up to help those still living.