Memorial Day is a lot of things to Americans. It’s the official kickoff of the barbecue season. Grills will be smoking with burgers, links, chicken and ribs. Americans will consume rivers of ice-cold beer while giving red Solo cups quite the workout.
If we’re not going to the lake, camping or partying, we’ll be going to the movies. Memorial Day has traditionally been the kickoff of the summer blockbuster season, although studios have started much earlier in recent years.
But we all know that the holiday is to honor those who paid the ultimate price in defense of our nation. Though it may not seem like it, we’re still a nation at war. I don’t forget it because my grandkids’ father is back in Afghanistan, working with the military as a civilian contractor. When he’s had to abruptly get off the phone with his wife due to incoming fire, I worry for his kids. I worry as well for all the families with loved ones in harm’s way.
It’s easy for most to forget about the war because it no longer leads the news. There was good press in early April – that March was only the third month in 12 years of war that there were no U.S. casualties in Afghanistan. The publicity that received, coupled with the withdrawal of forces, may have left the impression that hostilities were a thing of the past.
Sadly, an Army Ranger, Command Sgt. Maj. Martin Barreras, died last week from injuries he sustained May 6 in Afghanistan. He served five years as a Marine before joining the Army and serving 22 years. He was deployed to Panama and Haiti and served multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. Barreras participated in the rescue of wounded soldier Jessica Lynch in Iraq. He leaves behind a wife and three kids.
It’s a shame that this Memorial Day will be honored while we have an ongoing national disgrace and embarrassment in the Veterans Affairs hospital scandal. At least 40 veterans died waiting for care in the Phoenix VA Health Care System, while the hospital covered up the waiting times with secret waiting lists. Other hospitals are conducting reviews. President Obama needs to get to the bottom of this and frankly, needs to stand up and fire some people.
We can’t say we “support the troops” if we’re not taking care of them when they come home.
But why wait for government to get its act together? We get to enjoy ourselves this weekend because we have men and women ready to pay the ultimate price to defend the nation and our way of life.
Why not set aside a little of the money we’re going to spend on leisure activities and say thank you by making a donation to a veterans charity such as www.fisherhouse.org, which has facilities here at David Grant Medical Center. You can call manager Charlene Hall at the Travis Fisher House at 423-7552 to find out ways you can help. Also, consider www.fallenheroesfund.org. Both charities receive an A-plus from www.charitywatch.org.
Have a safe weekend. Peace.
Kelvin Wade is the author of “Morsels” Vols. I and II and lives in Fairfield. Email him at [email protected]