My grandfather served in World War II, being part of a unit that landed on Omaha Beach and suffered very heavy losses. His two brothers also fought, serving in the South Pacific and fighting in the Battle of Guadalcanal. However, this holiday is not about them; they all survived the war. Memorial Day is about those who give the ultimate sacrifice –their life– in the service of their country. It is about the men who served as the namesake for my father and, by extension, my nephew. My grandfather had multiple friends in the service named James, all of whom died when their company scaled the gigantic cliffs at the end of the Normandy beachhead.
The holiday is also about more than those who died on the battlefield. Those who return home with untreated ailments that prove ultimately fatal should be memorialized as well, just as vigorously. These include physical ailments, such as lymphoma from exposure to Agent Orange, and mental ailments, such as
post traumatic stress order shell shock from traumatic experiences that often leads to suicide. The rate of suicide among recent veterans has jumped 44% in recent years alone, being one of the biggest unaddressed issues facing today’s veterans.
This is only compounded by the recent scandal at the Department of Veterans’ Affairs. Forget about assigning winners and losers, or ascribing blame. How about, just today, our top priority be to lessen the suffering of those who have put everything on the line for the good of their countrymen. Veterans should transcend the politics behind wars; they are the brave young men and women who are willing to sacrifice their lives for country. I’m not, nor have I ever been, a supporter of the Iraq War in any way, shape or form, but believe that the veterans created by that conflict should be taken care of as one of our biggest national priorities. Those who lost their lives in the conflict should be revered as strongly as any other serviceman.