Memorial day is a nationally celebrated holiday in America. Dating back to the Civil War, it is a tradition of honoring those who died in armed conflict. Honoring fallen warriors is not a new concept to human culture. Yet Memorial Day in America has taken a strange spin in modern times. It's not so much about honoring our dead as it is an excuse to get together with family and party.
While there's nothing wrong with good times with family, there is something wrong in not taking time to actually honor those who sacrifice for our ideals. Some soldiers recognize the change in focus on the "Holiday". Calling it a holiday doesn't really feel proper either when you consider exactly what the day is supposed to be about.
As much as I'd like to get into statistics of how people spend their time on this day, it doesn't feel proper. I think a better use of this article space is to remember and remind those who read it exactly what Memorial Day is supposed to be about. Sacrifice.
According to this article, there were approximately 2.7 million veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. 20% of them have been reported to have PTSD and/or depression. That's approximately 540,000 veterans who have serious mental problems due to their service in the military.
Poverty rates with disability were abysmal in 2012 for veterans. They were even higher than civilian poverty with disability in almost all age groups. Which of course means that more veterans with disabilities are living in poverty and more than likely unable to have their disabilities properly cared for.
There are an inordinate amount of charities designed to help veterans. Even worse, CharityWatch is showing an alarmingly large number of them do an incredibly poor job of taking charity donations and turning it into real help for veterans. The Veterans Affairs Department can also be abysmally inefficient considering the volume of veterans is increasing every day.
Worse yet, perception of veterans who don't deal with any of these issues is warped due to our perception of soldiers. Unless you know the person directly, veterans are often seen as "broken" or "damaged" in some way due to their combat experiences. Even if they are of stable mind an body, there's a strange stigma that follows having been in the military.
Don't get me wrong, as a whole we look proudly on our soldiers and respect their work ethic for being in the military. Military experience can definitely make life easier if given the proper circumstances. More veterans are open to a wide range of career choices due to their service. More programs are offered to help keep them stable. Yet there is still something missing.
A true respect and understanding of what active combat is, and how it changes a person. Memorial Day should be a very somber holiday, with a serious overtone of the consequences of war. I'm not saying we can't get together with family and have a good time. I'm just saying there are quite a few veterans(and families of fallen veterans) who wish they could do the same.
Today let's remember we're all in this together.
E Pluribus Unum