This post by Gayle M. Irwin
Today is Memorial Day in America, a time to honor those who gave their lives for our country. To me, this is also a time to remember all service men and women, as well as their families. Yes, we have Armed Forces Day, which took place less than two weeks ago, and we have Veterans Day, which occurs in November, but I think we can afford to remember, and thank, our military more than just a few times a year. I’ve been especially reminded lately of the sacrifice our military and their families make and more humbled and grateful for their service.
During the past 18 months, I’ve met and written about several Wyoming veterans who served in Vietnam. I’m part of a project spearheaded by the Casper Star Tribune and Casper Journal, called “They Served with Honor,” in conjunction with the state of Wyoming Veterans Services; I am one writer of at least six around the state charged with interviewing veterans of the Vietnam War and writing their stories. It’s been a very amazing, and humbling, experience.
I’ve met helicopter pilots, infantry personnel, English tutors, and military trainers, among so many others. I’ve also met several wives of these service men. Each story is unique, each story is fascinating, each story is moving. Each story contributes to my story, my life as an American. One of my uncles was a helicopter pilot during Vietnam; he was shot down several times and though not captured, his memories are also very poignant. The Vietnam War was not popular in America; our military and their families suffered from the disdain and outright hatred inflicted on them. For that, our country should be, and hopefully is, ashamed. Those who served were doing what their country asked of them. We may not have liked that war, or any war, but we should always honor those who serve. They don’t ask to go, but they go when called. I hope Americans have learned from that awful experience known as the Vietnam War.
Many military service personnel suffer from PTSD, not recognized so much 50+ years ago, but certainly recognized now. It’s estimated that hundreds of thousands of American service men and women experience PTSD, including more than 30 percent of Vietnam veterans. It’s also estimated that about 50,000 U.S. veterans are homeless, more than 8 percent of the entire homeless population. Some studies show a 50% rate increase of suicide among veterans (deployed and nondeployed) than in the general population. We need to do better by our military and their families. We ask for their service, they give it, and now it’s our turn to serve them by caring for and about them.
As the political rhetoric continues this election cycle, creating a combat of its own in our country, it’s time politicians got off their high horses and stop looking down their noses at others, especially those who serve in the military. As the Billy Ray Cyrus song goes, “All gave some, and some gave all.” Our service men and women deserve our respect and our help. Perhaps if the Commander in Chief’s kids or grandkids or those of our Congress members had to be the first to report for duty, more thought would be given to giving the order to go to war and more respect and care would be given to those who did, and do, serve.
On this special day, Memorial Day, let’s remember and honor those who serve and those who sacrificed on our behalf.
Gayle M. Irwin is the author of inspirational dog stories for children and adults, including Sage’s Big Adventure, Sage Finds Friends, Cody’s Cabin: Life in a Pine Forest, and Walking in Trust: Lessons Learned with my Blind Dog. She is also a contributing writer to several anthologies, including the upcoming Chicken Soup for the Soul: Spirit of America, to be released in June, and Prairie Rose Publishing’s July release Pawprints on My Heart. Learn more at www.gaylemirwin.com.