Memorial Day 2013. Formerly known as Decoration Day — originally created and celebrated by former African-American slaves — and meant to commemorate and honour all men and women who have died in military service for this nation, the day officially became known as Memorial Day after World War II. Since 1971, Memorial Day has been recognised as a federal holiday observed on the last Monday in May.
While many view the day as the unofficial beginning of the summer season, the real purpose of the day should be remembered first and foremost. Sure, it’s great to enjoy backyard barbecues but the nation needs to move beyond giving obligatory ‘support our troops’ lip service as we sit by with the knowledge that disability payments are being delayed under tons of bureaucratic paperwork and that troops are being treated as a general nuisance when they seek employment opportunities post military service.
Many of us have heard the alarming statistics on sexual assaults in the military and seen the horrific data on veterans’ suicide rates. It seems the best way to remember and support the troops is to ensure that preventative measures are put in place. More accountability throughout the entire chain of command, and more assistance upon discharge from the military are in order and, given the size of the military’s budget, no increase in revenues is needed to shift funds away from wasteful spending towards efforts designed to care for those who protect the nation and its resources. Hopefully, having Chuck Hagel, the first enlisted man to hold the post of Secretary of Defense, in place is a step towards not only giving the nation the best defense it needs, but the best support troops need during and after their time served.
Today, a patriotic day, is a day dedicated to paying tribute to service members but real patriotism should take place every day and it should involve more than just political pomposity. Congress needs to act with all due speed on behalf of those who serve. And for our part we, the people, in honour of our veterans, should not place into office any more officials who believe that the best way to solve problems is to send those braver than themselves into battle.