SAN JOSE, May 25, 2014 — Today, as the nation approaches Memorial Day, it is America’s veterans who are the ones protesting their treatment (or lack of treatment) within the government healthcare structure that is implemented through the Veteran’s Administration.
When one reflects on this, it is one thing to give honor and pay one’s respect to those who died in the service of their country, but a far different reality when such men or women are dishonored while still alive when they come back home from a conflict on the other side of the world. The scandal at the V.A. over the backlog of claims existing in the system has taken on a new meaning as it has been discovered that veterans have died waiting for their benefits or for proper healthcare. It is a genuine disgrace and such horrid treatment speaks quite loudly.
For those 60+ or more vets who died as victims of broken promises of the Obama Administration and of a broken healthcare system, these veterans “shall not have died in vain.” It is fitting and proper that they are especially remembered on this Memorial Day. Let these honored dead provide all other veterans and concerned citizens with increased devotion and dedication to a rebirth of pride in the men and women who have put on the uniform of the U.S. military, to a renewal of respect for those in the military who swear an oath to protect and defend the country and the Constitution of the United States. Those who were willing to sacrifice their lives for the sake of their country should not be shortchanged, nor should their value be diminished. It is the purpose for celebrating Memorial Day.
Memorial Day was born from the ashes and destruction of the Civil War of the United States.
The holiday originated because of the painful experience of a nation’s loss of life on such a massive scale. Over 620,000 men and boys died in that war and the Veterans Association helped create Memorial Day as a way of honoring the Union soldiers who gave their lives that the United States could survive as a nation. Such an incredibly painful loss of so many men and boys prompted the Veteran’s Association to provide a practical means for the families and survivors to mourn and honor their loved ones and family members, just as Abraham Lincoln expressed such sentiment when he honored the men who fought at Gettysburg:
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live…
But in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate – we cannot consecrate – we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us – that from these honored dead we take increased devotion – that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain – that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom…”
Lincoln’s words ring true through the ages and touch people even to this day.
Despite the fun at gatherings all around the country in this day, Memorial Day is not the most pleasant of holidays due to its original and fundamental purpose. It originated as a day to deal with the painful experience of the nation’s loss of life on a massive scale. The country was bitterly divided, cities were devastated, men and boys would never again come marching home, families had been ripped apart, but the people kept on with their lives despite the deep-seated pain and resentment that remained after the war.
Memorial Day provided an outlet for people to mourn the loss of their loved ones, and it offered an opportunity to Americans to reflect on the value of freedom itself.
Today, once again America is divided. It has been most effectively divided since the days of the Vietnam War, and the confusion and controversy generated doubt within. The doubt was deliberate; it was the result of a premeditated process of shifting the debate about what the United States was doing in the tiny southeast Asian country. When John F. Kennedy sent troops to help the South Vietnamese military, he essentially had a similar intent as Harry Truman when Truman sent U.S. troops to help defend the south Korean people from tyranny. Kennedy’s inaugural address on January 20, 1961, does much to help students of history understand why America became involved in Vietnam. Yet, self-proclaimed prophets on the college campuses throughout the country alleged that peace was more precious than freedom.
Then, when America’s veterans returned home from overseas combat, those vets were spit on, reviled, disrespected, and considered war mongers. In just a dozen years, America became divided over the value of the veteran who went off “to make the make the world safe for democracy” as Woodrow Wilson explained it when he announced to the American people that the nation was going to enter the Great War. Yet, after that war, when our vets came home, they were welcomed back with respect and they were honored. When WWII ended, again America’s veterans were welcomed back home with respect and honor. When the Korean War ended, once again, America’s veterans were welcomed back home with respect and they were honored. Yet, after the Vietnam War, America was divided.
While there have always been those who primarily promoted the virtues of peace during every conflict the U.S. had been involved in, this war became different. Was the conflict that different, had devices of war changed in those dozen years from 1953 to 1965? Were the South Vietnamese less worthy of their freedom than the South Koreans, or the Filipinos, or the French, or the Belgians? What changed is that young Americans on college campuses were told by well-educated, radically-inclined, and Marxist- oriented, professors that peace was a much more noble pursuit than war, which is essentially true. And essentially, it is hard to speak out against, or oppose the concept of peace when an entire national populace is composed of people of conscience, and citizens who have the freedom to speak their minds.
Ironically, those self-proclaimed prophets of peace were also touting the virtues of helping black Americans ‘fight’ for their civil rights during the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s. One question that was not asked of those prophets was whether the civil rights of the blacks in the U.S. were of such greater value than the rights of the South Vietnamese people. Who made these professors the arbiters of the people of South Vietnam and their human rights? Such hypocrisy ran rampant in America during this time and there were so many casualties. One of the greatest casualties was the American identity of valuing freedom above peace. This notion was how the United States of America came to exist. This idea of freedom is what makes the nation a nation dedicated to the ideal that all men are created equal.
The Vietnam vets should have been welcomed back home with respect and with honor. Sadly, many Americans forgot what the country stood for and began questioning the bedrock values of this nation. Even Vietnam veterans themselves, who did not understand the purpose of U.S. involvement in that Asian nation’s “internal” affairs became confused over the why. Today, such questioning of America’s founding principles persists, and those who once protested against America’s presence in Vietnam are the ones manipulating the public perception of the military in the mainstream media via major televised programming, as well as coverage in newspapers and magazines, especially during most conflicts after Vietnam, or they are the ones working in higher echelons in government, such as John Kerry.
Happy Memorial Day for all veterans and their families, and sincere appreciation for those who sacrificed their lives for the sake of freedom!