Memorial Day this year is especially important as we are reminded almost daily of the great sacrifices that the men and women of the Armed Services make to defend our way of life.
-- Robin Hayes
Memorial Day is a time marked for remembrance of our fallen heroes who made great sacrifices to defend our way of life. Additionally, Memorial Day is also a celebration of the pinnacle of patriotism for our nation.
We must pay tribute to the U.S. servicemen and women who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan and transitional forces in Operation New Dawn in Iraq. Additionally, we must honor all servicemen and women, who everyday are prepared to put it all on the line to defend our great country. And we must never forget those who paid the ultimate price to defend our freedom and all that America stands for today.
Unfortunately, the scars of war remain with us today, and will linger for many years to come. According to a recent report compiled by the Congressional Research Service, the latest count for those U.S. servicemember causalities resulting from combat missions in Iraq and Afghanistan is 6,775, while 51,810 U.S. servicemen and women were wounded in action.
These wounds aren't always of a physical nature, however, and often present in the form of mental health related issues. This same Congressional Research Service report points out that approximately 20 percent of these veterans have been diagnosed with PTSD and/or depression, and more than 287,000 have been diagnosed with traumatic brain injury (TBI) as a result of their time spent in the combat theatre.
Unfortunately, qualifying for disability and receiving the right treatment is an often tedious process. According to "The VA Claims Backlog Working Group March 2014 Report," in 2014, the total number of disability compensation claims awaiting adjudication stands at a whopping 700,000 across the country, with some 400,000 facing protracted delays of more than 125 days. In the end, the sacrifices of those servicemen and women who have perished, and those who still live with injuries is well recorded in the scrolls of history and continues to pervade the news.
Despite the backdrop of what may be a compelling wave of reasons to brush-aside the thought of joining the U.S. Armed Forces and pursue an alternate occupation, there appears to be a segment of the population poised not only to celebrate patriotism, but live it by volunteering to join the U.S. Armed Forces. This is evidenced by the strong retention numbers the military continues to experience.
The Department of Defense recruiting and retention statistics for the active and reserve components released for fiscal year 2013 indicate all four active services (Air Force, Army, Navy and Marine Corps) met or exceeded their numerical accession goals. The reasons people join vary. Some people are drawn to one service by a family member who previously served in that particular branch. For others it's something they've seen growing up. Maybe it was a commercial or a billboard. Maybe they have an interest in flying so decide to join the Air Force, or are fascinated by ships and submarines so they chose the Navy. Or maybe they know the military can provide them with a world-class education and leadership skills.
The combat missions in Iraq and Afghanistan have pervaded our homes and consciousness through streaming media hype -- some positive, but mostly negative -- over the past 14-years. But for many who step through the recruiter's door and volunteer to join the U.S. Armed Forces, it is more than just an allegory in a commercial or on a billboard, and it is more than just a job; it is a duty to defend our very way of life and freedom in America.
This Memorial Day however you reflect, remember, and spend the day, don't forget that the rise of our future heroes is as much a tribute to the sacrifices of our fallen heroes. Let us never forget those who paid the ultimate price, while showing our appreciation, support and respect to those who continue to serve. Perhaps the best way to honor the fallen and injured is to continue their legacy in our future heroes.
In echoing a famous quote of John F. Kennedy that still reins true today: "My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country."