Honor and Remember

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U.S. Army Cpt. Craig Morin presents a flag to Nancy Leftenant-Colon, sister to Tuskegee Airman and 2nd Lt. Samuel G. Leftenant, in January 2016. | Source: POLITICO

On Memorial Day, we remember the servicemen and women who paid the ultimate price in defense of our freedom. We honor the fallen for their courage and sacrifice.

Let’s be honest. For some, today means a three-day weekend, cookouts, and “unbeatable” shopping deals. It’s a bit disheartening to know how disconnected and desensitized we’ve become to the darkness associated with today. We must not forget the true meaning of Memorial Day.

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U.S. Army Sgt. Major Jeffrey Lewis holds the American flag that covered the casket of Army Cpl. Richard L. Wing during Wing’s burial service in 2015. | Source: POLITICO

Originally known as Decoration Day, Memorial Day was created shortly after the Civil War, when over 750,000 individuals perished throughout the North and the South. It is known as one of our country’s bloodiest wars.

Over the course of US history, dating back to the dawn of the American Revolution, over 1,300,000+ service members have died in combat. This number does not include the 1,400,000+ wounded in battle, nor the 40,900+ reported missing.*  For a moment, let’s focus in on those wounded in battle. That’s roughly the same amount of people who have perished during wartime.

Those who serve our country come from different eras and battles; still they share the experience of a challenging military lifestyle: constantly moving, rigorous training and life-changing service at home and abroad.

It should be noted that many of these individuals continue to live with invisible wounds of war.  Thus, those in the Armed Forces may face mental health challenges – and these wounds often go untreated.

If you or someone you know is in crisis, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. By calling 1-800-273-TALK (8255) you’ll be connected to a skilled, trained counselor at a crisis center in your area, anytime 24/7. For those who may not feel comfortable speaking over the phone, contact the Crisis Text Line, which provides free assistance to anyone who texts “help” to 741-741.

Did you know that 22 veterans and one servicemember dies by suicide each day?

This number is staggering. And it’s not the only one that is surprising. In America, suicide rates are the highest they have been in 30 years. Additionally, suicide rates have risen across all age groups.

So what can we do?

1. We must educate ourselves on the mental health needs of our servicemembers and veterans. Mental health conditions, such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), depression and anxiety are quite common among our military personnel.

2. We must also understand that these conditions also take a toll on family members and loved ones. They, too, face mental health concerns that may go undiagnosed and untreated.

3. We must advocate for legislation that supports our servicemembers and veterans. Reach out to your Representative and Senators. Sign petitions. Write to them. Call them. Email them. Visit their office in person. Let your voice be heard.

4. And lastly, we must remind ourselves that for those who have lost a loved one in service to our country, every day is Memorial Day. Remember to honor those who have fallen – not just today, but every day – in service to our country.

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President Obama signed the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act in February 2015. | Source: US News & World Report

If you or someone you know is in crisis, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. By calling 1-800-273-TALK (8255) you’ll be connected to a skilled, trained counselor at a crisis center in your area, anytime 24/7. For those who may not feel comfortable speaking over the phone, contact the Crisis Text Line, which provides free assistance to anyone who texts “help” to 741-741.

*Note from the author, @mamatanapWe acknowledge that we were unable to identify exact data of US casualties of war. These numbers were pulled from Wikipedia, which is not necessarily a reliable source. Please note that this was the most up-t0-date information the author could find as the Department of Veterans Affairs’ data  was not current. 

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