This Memorial Day weekend, we reflect upon what it really means to honor the memory of the men and women who fought for our country. We'll visit gravesites, observe moments of silence, hold parades and barbeques and celebrate the freedoms our soldiers provided -- all important gestures.
But as a country, we can do better than that.
In Congress, while the House's proposed defense budget calls for significant increases, it also cuts 11 billion dollars from veterans spending -- including healthcare and disability pay. Be clear: we can't equate spending on veterans with spending on defense. Our strength is not just in the size of our defense budget, but in the size of our hearts, in the size of our gratitude for their sacrifice. And that's not just measured in words or gestures.
The President has overseen dramatic troop reductions in Iraq and Afghanistan -- and the first step towards caring for our soldiers is getting them home. He has also increased funding for veteran healthcare, pushed tax credits for businesses who hire vets, and approved a stronger GI bill to educate them.
But there shouldn't be a contrast between the political parties. Caring for veterans shouldn't be a partisan issue. It should an American one. We should be willing to show our respect by sacrificing something too, perhaps even, yes, by raising taxes on those who can afford it; who benefit from having a free nation, a free enterprise system could give back to those who enabled their prosperity. We are defined as a nation by how we treat those who have defended us.
As governor, when I visited our troops in Kuwait and Iraq, I served them Thanksgiving dinner. It was a small gesture compared to their sacrifice. And I hosted a Memorial Day ceremony every year, which brought together families of our fallen soldiers. It was simple and emotional, but it was important. I would say the names, ranks and cities of the soldiers, their families would stand with each name, and at the end, I would assure these families that we would not forget them. That their names would be etched in our hearts, that we would remember them in all things around us, when the wheat fields or the banners of white cloud in the sky waved in their honor. I thanked them as a governor and as a parent, for raising a hero.
And as one mom said to me, "That we remember my baby's name means that my son did not die in vain."
Ceremonies are important. But our gratitude has to be more than visits to the troops, and once-a-year Memorial Day ceremonies. We honor the dead best by treating the living well.
We will remember their names, this weekend and beyond. And we must remember them, as a nation, through a commitment to treat our living veterans as well as they have treated us.
Cross-posted at "The War Room" blog. Follow Jennifer Granholm on Facebook and Twitter and "The War Room" on Facebook and Twitter. "The War Room with Jennifer Granholm" airs weeknights at 9/8c on Current TV.
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