It is unfathomable to wrap ourselves around the enormity of Memorial Day and its true underlying message. It is singular in nature. Today we mourn, honor, celebrate, cherish and we never forget the fallen of our nation.
That is the sacred meaning Memorial Day holds. Sometimes we lose sight of that in our busy lives. This is a message and a call to reaffirm our understanding of the day and remind us how important it is to us.
It’s a call to reflect and to take to heart how fortunate and blessed we are as a nation. That so many are willing to voluntarily serve is in itself heroic. They train, they travel, they separate from their loved ones and from comforts of home. And they go far, far away. They see and experience things that no human being could ever imagine. They don’t do it for the pay. They don’t do it for the recognition. Joining the military can have great benefit to a young person. Education, camaraderie, teamwork, service, physical fitness and commitment. Character building. All great takeaways and once the mission is complete.
They serve to protect their families, their friends and yes, they do it for us — all of us. They do it for those they might dislike, for those they love or more uniquely they do it for complete strangers who, simply stated, are their fellow countrymen. That is extraordinary isn’t it? They know that at minimum they will be sacrificing a lot. At maximum they are fully aware that they could end up making the ultimate sacrifice. They could be killed in action (KIA). And yet they still go and fight for it all.
Let’s pause and think about the sheer fact of it. A total of 2,852,901 men and women have sacrificed in service to our nation and in defense of our freedoms. So many are still considered missing in action (MIA). We can assume that they may have perished as well. That number is 40,031.
An estimated 1,498,240 have returned home hurt, both physically and psychologically. They’ve lost arms and legs, sight, and many other things. They also suffer “unseen wounds” due to traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress.
At 18, 28 or 38-years-old, they are suffering and face the rest of their lives with these injuries. They suffer from a cataclysmic number of suicides, homelessness, addictions, joblessness, and domestic and even criminal consequences. It’s very hard to think about that too. They signed up. They volunteered. They went into battle or they prepared to serve, and they likely spent many months away — sometimes years. Then they came home and faced these challenges.
They all deserve our gratitude, respect and our support. That goes without saying. But saying thank you is no longer enough. We learned how to properly say thank you after Vietnam and we no longer blame the service member. But even today while we are doing better at saying thank you, we must always do better about actionable thanks. This comes in the form of support; quality jobs, health care, and love and support that’s quantifiable not just words. We always need to do better.
Our commander in chief, our military and veteran support leadership are doing more than ever before to walk the walk as they say. We thank President Trump and his administration for making this his top priority. We are seeing the results of these actionable items and its really working well.
But today is for pause and for singular purpose. Some of us pray — we thank God for such men and women among us. We must remember otherwise their sacrifice might one day be forgotten. Some of us place flags at the graves of our nation’s heroes. Some of us do more. And that’s commendable.
Supporting organizations that care for our fallen heroes, their families and their legacies is also a good thing. It allows us all, those of us who have not served and those who have, to get involved in helping surviving spouses, children or parents of our departed service members. There may be immediate needs, and long-term ones too. Starting a scholarship in the name of a fallen hero keeps that person’s name alive and well for years to come. Things like that are ways we can strive to do more than we might normally do — like barbecue — on this “holiday.”
Remember that saying thank you is not enough. Doing more, taking action and cherishing those who give us everything we enjoy about America is something required of us. Abraham Lincoln implored us “to care for those who have borne the battle.” We owe these families nothing less than our eternal gratitude, love, and respect — always. We owe them so much.
May God bless all of our fallen heroes and their families. May God Bless the USA!
Bill White (@BillWhiteNY) is the CEO of Constellations Group and is widely recognized as one of the nation’s foremost advocates for military, veterans, first responders, and their families. White has raised over $1.5 billion for these heroes and is a respected businessman and philanthropist.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.