I don’t mean to be rude, but please don’t thank me or any living veteran for their service today. Not today.
Today is Memorial Day. It’s a day to honor those who served and have joined the ranks of the departed. For those of us who served and lived, the individuals we remember today are not statistics of history, but friends and real live human beings: Men and women who laid down their lives not just for our nation, but for us—the comrades to their left and right.
Now there’s no doubt that there will be a flurry of e-mails and speeches today from politicians of all stripes. They’ll speak of the sacrifices and last breaths drawn by "our brave men and women" on beaches, deserts, city streets and other far-away lands. But, and maybe it’s just me, I can’t help but also think of and remember those who died after returning home, undoubtedly from the results of their wartime experience—someone who, for example, because of understaffing and underfunding, was unable to get the mental health care they earned and who made a decision one day to put a bullet through their brain. This happens. Often.
Will these folks be memorialized today by the politicians—the same politicians who vote to keep veterans out of work; the same politicians who vote to defund and privatize the VA and similar programs? Probably not. That’s bad for business, you see, and this is after all an election year. But today’s not the day for that kind of talk.
Enjoy your Memorial Day. Really. But take a moment to remember that while you’re working in the yard or spending time with friends and family, someone, somewhere is thinking about someone they love—someone who gave their life, far away or here at home, for you, for me and for our nation.