A Memorial Day thank you

A Memorial Day thank you

May 27th, 2013 in Opinion Times

Today is the day we honor the men and women who have died for our freedom, our country, our way of life and our ideals.

We have a lot of honoring to do, as that means being grateful to more than 1.3 million Americans.

If we include the numbers of wounded soldiers as well, our thank you notes would jump to more than 2.7 million.

We all know someone who has served our country. Many of us know someone who is serving now. And that multiplies the idea that we can't just be thankful and grateful and attentive to the needs of our military men and women on just this one day a year.

There are deep daily concerns for our family members now serving and those who have recently served.

• Last week, just under 600,000 claims to the U.S. Veterans Affairs qualified as backlogged, meaning they had been pending for more than 125 days. That's a minimum of four months.

• More than half of all Iraq and Afghanistan veterans treated in Department of Veterans Affairs hospitals since 2002 have been diagnosed, at least preliminarily, with mental health problems, according to statistics from the advocacy group Veterans for Common Sense.

• Lost or missing war records from Iraq and Afghanistan not only leave families of the dead or missing wondering what happened, but they also may cheat war survivors of needed documentation for care now and later. Last week, a bipartisan letter to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel renewed a call to find or reconstruct the records.

• A Pentagon survey estimates that 26,000 people in the armed forces were sexually assaulted last year -- just last year. In recent weeks, three military officials whose job it is to ensure proper training or enforcement to curtail sex assaults in the military were charged themselves with sexual abuse.

Yes, it's true that Memorial Day is the day we honor the dead, not the veterans.

But those who died defending our freedom would be the first in line to call for respect and help for living soldiers.

So on this day -- with its history rooted deeply in the annual Decoration Day customs of our country, especially the South -- we say a heartfelt: Support our troops, yesterday and today.

And for those who are gone:

Thank you.