Honoring Veterans on Memorial Day holds a special place in my heart, reflecting on cherished memories of my youth when this day was synonymous with remembrance. A heartfelt Memorial Day parade, featuring spirited youth and revered Veterans, would gracefully wind its way from the local grade school to our historic church. It was on this day that I felt an overwhelming sense of patriotism and pride in being an American. The familial ties to the military further deepened this sentiment as my father and uncle served in the Navy, my grandfather in the Army – all during wartime. My mother's family was no exception, with a sister who became a WAVE and a brother lost in World War II, while several of her brothers valiantly served during that time. Both my sons, proudly, followed in this tradition by serving in the US Army.
Yet, I also remember the tumultuous era of the Vietnam War. It was a challenging period for our nation, one in which I couldn't comprehend why returning soldiers weren't embraced with warmth and respect. They had answered their country's call, made profound sacrifices, and yet, they were met with indifference. The actions of our government towards our veterans during that time left me feeling deeply ashamed and disappointed.
Memorial Day, however, serves as a poignant reminder of those who made the ultimate sacrifice in service of our nation. Its origins trace back to the aftermath of the Civil War, when General John A. Logan declared Decoration Day, marked on May 30th, as a day to adorn graves with flowers and pay tribute to those who had fallen in the Civil War. Over the years, Memorial Day's significance has expanded to honor all veterans who have served in the armed forces, ultimately becoming a national holiday in 1971.
Today, as we commemorate Memorial Day, let us not only remember those who gave their lives but also extend our gratitude to the men and women who serve or have served in the military. A simple "thank you" can convey our appreciation for their service. This Memorial Day, let us take a moment to honor these courageous veterans and recognize their selfless dedication.
Furthermore, my experiences as a Registered Nurse have acquainted me with numerous injured soldiers over the years. I once championed a school for head injury survivors, affording me an early understanding of the challenges within the military medical delivery system. I witnessed firsthand the lack of support and professionalism in the medical staff, often divided between their roles as soldiers and medical professionals.
Years later, my personal involvement with the active military and VA system, as my son, SGT Geoffrey R Brachvogel, faced his own medical issues, revealed heart-wrenching realities. He received care that was disheartening and, at times, neglectful during his time at Madigan Army Medical Center while on active duty. Tragically, my son completed suicide on September 15, 2011, under the care of the VA in Waco, being discharged in a severely sedated state to an empty home, with a suicide prevention brochure left unopened in his mail.
The systemic issues within the VA system have long been known, yet the need for change persists. As a high-ranking military official once told me, change is a formidable challenge within bureaucratic systems. I sincerely hope he is proven wrong.
Our soldiers, our veterans, deserve the utmost care and support. For those currently serving and those who have sacrificed for our freedom, I extend my heartfelt thanks. You remain in my thoughts and prayers every day. Thank you for your unwavering service and sacrifice.
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