“We are met on a great battle field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of it, as a final resting place for those who died here, that the nation might live. This we may, in all propriety do. But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate—we can not consecrate—we can not hallow, this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have hallowed it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here; while it can never forget what they did here”. Abraham Lincoln
Over the past few weeks I paid a few visits to my local VA hospital in Houston. Thankfully, I was among the fortunate veterans there to take care of minor personal business. My appointments did give me the opportunity to witness (to some small degree), what has been playing out in the media since April: news that at least 40 U.S. veterans died waiting for appointments at the Phoenix Veterans Affairs Health Care system, many of whom were placed on a secret waiting list. Truth is, this is only “breaking news” because the right information, fell into the right hands and the media got a hold of it. This kind of mismanagement, is not new. I am not going to comment on the validity of “secret waiting lists”. But I can say, the VA healthcare system is flawed. Customer service is poor (to say the least), attention paid to Vets in the waiting room borders on dismissive (at best). It’s a shame. Men and women, including myself, who put their lives on the line for our country, only to be treated like those very lives don’t matter when we come home. Yes, we enlisted willingly and selflessly and because we considered it our sworn and solemn duty. But when you are on the field of battle with your brothers and sisters in arms, you see things that change you. That affect you deeply. That hurt you. Some of that pain is physical; much of it is mental. Yet we serve. We protect. We honor our nation. Our servicemen and servicewomen deserve better.
I take great pride in my service to my country during Operation Desert Storm, especially now that I have become a spokesperson for USA Cares Texas Region. Military is not just a vocation. It is a way of life, an attitude that you carry in your heart even after you are discharged. I wear the title of Veteran like a badge of honor and know deep in my heart that I was a dedicated sailor who would have made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of (as my cousin Lt. Sha’Kendrick Tilley so eloquently put it), the liberties, rights, way of life and freedom many civilians take for granted.
Some of us never make it home. We honor them on Memorial Day. As Abraham Lincoln once said, “…that we here highly resolve these dead shall not have died in vain.” So this weekend, in between the grilling and the beaches and the amusement parks and road trips; before the shopping and the relaxing and the family visits, I ask you to take a moment to acknowledge the real meaning of the day. Memorial Day commemorates the men and women who died while in the military service (our Fallen). In observance of the holiday I am grateful that so many people visit cemeteries and memorials or volunteer to place American flags on grave sites at national cemeteries. If at all possible, keep an eye on the clock and observe a national moment of remembrance which takes place at 3:00 p.m. local time.
To our fallen, our veterans and my brothers and sisters in arms, I salute you. Godspeed.