Armed Forces Day 2013 Reminds Us How We've Failed Our Heroes
Freedom comes with the heaviest price. Thousands of men and women have given their lives for our liberty, something we take for granted. With honor and pride, they died so that we could live in peace and security.
Armed Forces Day has been celebrated on the third Saturday in May since 1950. In 1952, the New York Times had this to say about the holiday: "This is the day on which we have the welcome opportunity to pay special tribute to the men and women of the Armed Forces ... to all the individuals who are in the service of their country all over the world."
Today, we have forgotten the price that our armed forces pay. In a moving opinion piece written last year by Kerry Patton, a veteran of Afghanistan, Patton wrote that every day should be Armed Forces Day.
The most interesting take away from the article was how much Americans have abandoned the armed forces and failed them miserably. Most importantly, people as a whole don't understand or desire to comprehend the agony veterans go through upon their return home. If they get to come home.
Patton wrote about meeting a Vietnam vet. He said, "Mentally we had a lot in common. I learned a lot that day from my new friend. I learned I wasn't alone. I, too, believe that some of my most cherished times in life were spent fighting alongside my brothers during military combat." This is heroism at its finest.
Do we want to hear these kinds of stories on the news? Not anymore. Patton also said, "During Vietnam, at least our vets were either completely loved or hated ... But never neglected." This is a scathing truth about how we have discarded our best and bravest.
Neglect is the harshest but most astute choice of words to use for this country's treatment of the veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan. During Vietnam, people were glued to their television sets. Today, we see nothing and hear very little about the experiences of our veterans.
Truthfully, we don't want to know. So they keep their experiences tucked inside. We see stories of the bravery of Chris Kyle, but they are few and far between. Little coverage is given to the plight of our military as they try to make their way in the civilian world, many suffering from the horrors of PTSD.
Patton summed up what it all means beautifully. "Many Americans no longer care about our warriors. Instead we care more about that sports star that got wrapped up in some illegal activity, some foreign national who escaped communist China, or some celebrity scandal."
He is absolutely correct. We've taken freedom for granted, not ever considering that freedom can be taken from us in an instant. Freedom is bought and paid for in blood. Maybe Americans have gotten too comfortable living in a land where freedom is expected and no longer something we appreciate, or even truly value.
"Without our veterans, we as a nation, have nothing." Our country has failed our armed forces. For this, only the deepest regret and shame can be expressed.