Memorial Day 2010 - a day to remember those who have fallen to protect our freedoms and our way of life. A day to thank those who have had the courage to serve this Nation in its times of need.
If we have learned anything from the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, it is how to love the warrior while hating the war - a lesson that we did not understand 40 years ago when our brothers and sisters were returning from southeast Asia. For them there was little "home coming" because most of us at home did not know how to separate their service from the cause. We may have welcomed our own soldier or sailor, but we failed miserably in finding a way to welcome them home as a group.
We also failed them medically and emotionally. We see the open wounds of the Vietnam War even today - veterans who are a huge part of our homeless population, whose emotional wounds have not been treated and who have never returned to the American way of life that they gave their souls for so many years ago. Our veterans' medical system is over burdened and struggling to accommodate the young men returning from today's battles while the warriors of yesterday are reaching the point of needing more care in their declining years - often in antiquated, over-crowded facilities. As a nation we need to do better. As individuals we need to start doing more.
At the very least we need to say thank you to those who have done so much for us. Thank you to Lew Puller. Thank you to Les Smith, Jake Smith, John Bane, and Ray Whiteman. Thank you to John Connell, to Ron Stewart, to Keith Hammock, and to Bob Kenney. Thank you to the 58,159 men and women who gave their lives in the jungles of southeast Asia and to their families.
Thank you to the 153,000 plus who were wounded there and to the families of the 2,500 still missing in action. For my generation Vietnam will always be the "big war" and the way we failed to understand it or resolve our feelings about it may mark us forever.
But today is a day to remember; a day to say thanks. "And the Star-Spangled Banner in triumph shall wave, o're the land of the free and [especially] the home of the brave."
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