Memorial Day – something in addition to the upcoming sale?

“Memorial Day Sale” is a common phrase in our lexicon.  When I researched photos to attach to this blog, many of the images where for sales or stated with excitement Happy Memorial Day!  It is nice we have this day or long weekend to picnic, celebrate the beginning of summer, and shop.

The Day though was established after the Civil War to honor those that lost their lives fighting in our wars.  But things have radically changed with our current War.  So, in addition to using coupons this weekend, I need to talk about what I’ve learned.

How times have changed war- the use of technology, international terrorism on many lands, men and women in combat, the cycling of our soldiers in and out of deployment and the low rate of deaths coupled with the high rate of injured.

Unlike other conflicts, I don’t know what we call this one.  The Department of Defense has segregated this on-going engagement into various titles.  That adds to my confusion and to my ignorance.

It’s a different War.  And though the number who have died is low, the impact is astounding to me.

  • “2.7 million service members have been to the war zones of Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001, and over half of them have deployed more than once” (Watson Institute of International Affairs, Brown University)
  • 16+ years of combat
  • About 6,900 US deaths or .0025 of the 2.7MM (Wikipedia)
  • Unknown number of injured. I read 6 different papers, the VA and the Dept. of Defense websites and still cannot quote a number.  The information is confusing.
  • 970,000 disability claims registered with the VA since this war began – nearly 1 million – that’s almost 40% of those that served (Watson Institute, opinion pieces on Forbes and The Huffington Post)
  • The suicide rate among young veterans, age 17-24 years, is high – more than 4 times higher than this same age group of men without military service. (March 2012 Research paper by Robert D Gibbons et al)
  • Our use of drones in this War is unprecedented. There is important evidence that new technology does not protect our warriors from injury.
  • “Homeless veterans are younger on average than the total veteran population.” (National Coalition for Homeless Veterans)
  • “About 1.4 million other veterans, meanwhile, are considered at risk of homelessness due to poverty, lack of support networks, and dismal living conditions in overcrowded or substandard housing.” (National Coalition for Homeless Veterans)

This Memorial Day, I need a new commemoration – a call to action – to continue to find ways to assist our newest Veterans with their health and housing needs.   And I need to remember to thank Veterans who have served and survived.  They are carrying more on their shoulders than I ever realized.

Resources about & for Veterans:


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