Memorial Day

“Thank you for serving your country.” It is a phrase that has made me cringe. Those of us caught wearing our uniforms in public have encountered well-meaning citizens happy to shake our hands or give us a hug. Many of my fellow service members take this in stride and handle this more gracefully than I do—after a brief acknowledgment, I excuse myself and scurry away from these strangers before they tell me how much they appreciate my sacrifice. More than once I’ve wondered how many people who shake the hands of soldiers passing through the airport think nothing of saying, “Of course our soldiers deserve the best but—“?

… as long as somebody else picks up the tab. Not me, though. I support the soldiers, but not the war. They spend too much on weapons. Too much bureaucracy. Out of sight, out of mind. Okay, then—since the military-industrial complex is in need of some fiscal fitness, where would you make those cuts? Not all healthcare costs for wounded warriors will become the responsibility of the Veterans’ Administration. Significant delays transitioning from one system to the other leave wounded warriors stranded in healthcare limbo.

How many civilians have a first-degree family member currently serving in the military? Where is the “shared” in “shared sacrifice”? For those of us who grew up as Army (or Navy) brats, sacrifice was second nature. It still is. Military families live with as they cope with the stresses of multiple deployments, economic instability due to frequent moves, and the threat of job losses due to involuntary separations. Adjusting to life after deployment is difficult. Although many are resilient, these transitions are risky times for vulnerable soldiers and their families. Wounded warriors and their families must define a new normal, often while fighting a new war:  for benefits paid in full for services rendered to our country. For some of our band of brothers, Plato’s words come to mind:  “It is only the dead who have seen the end of war”.

The next time you shake a veteran’s hand, ask what it cost him or her to serve your country. For those of us who came home, the price is higher than you think.

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