This Memorial Day will be the nation’s 149th. Originally called Decoration Day, May 30th was chosen because it had no association with a particular battle.
Imagine that. I doubt that can be said these days. A quick Google search brings up Memorial Day battles where American troops fought in the Vietnam War and Iraq just in the last 50 years. We’ve seen a lot of conflict in a century and a half. But what hasn’t changed is that we pause on this day to remember…
Here at the National Veterans Foundation, Memorial Day means that our Lifeline for Vets will see a surge of calls. Why? For many vets, it’s a day that dredges up memories of war and stirs up PTSD symptoms. A day of remembrance is not just for families who want to honor loved ones who lost their lives while serving. It’s a day to remember all the men and women who have served, defending our country when they were called to war, keeping us strong in peacetime.
Memorial Day is always especially hard on veterans who have lost comrades-in-arms. Best friends. Brothers. Life-changing losses. The significant dates preceding this holiday, Veterans Day in November and the holidays at year’s end, always see an increase in calls to our hotline as vets remember their lost ones as they revisit those scenes that marked them, good and bad. It’s a time that can be very isolating. And so we gear up. It starts about a week before the Day and takes about a week to settle back down.
On those days, we’re not thinking of the barbecues, the start of summer, graduations and beginnings. We’re listening to veterans one at a time, hearing their stories, acknowledging what they are feeling. It’s very sobering, and it leaves you full and empty at the same time. But it also leaves you with a sense of reverence for the human spirit.
And then, because we care, we get a little feisty and impatient with how things are. We get charged up to make a difference. In our case, we look for ways to increase the number of hours we staff our phone lines, vets talking vets. We offer more training opportunities for the veterans who work the Lifeline. We work hard to broaden the base of resources we can offer our callers. And here’s the thing…we serve veteran callers and their families.
Because loss doesn’t occur in a vacuum. It’s like a stone thrown into a pool…the ripples widen out and repeat. I imagine anyone who reads this carries a part of that loss.
Be a part of the healing. Support organizations that work with vets. Volunteer. Write your local, state and government leaders. Listen to a vet tell his or her story.
If stopping war were a reachable goal, I imagine we’d have gotten there by now. Let’s focus instead on what we can do. In Lincoln’s second inaugural address, he says, “Let us strive on to finish the work we are in…to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan… “
That’s what we do here. If you know a vet, male or female, who needs help, here’s the Lifeline for Vets number: 888.777.4443.
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The worst part of war should not be coming home.