I am a veteran of the United States Marines. It is a proud family tradition. Being a Tennessean just instills that heritage a little deeper. Tennessee is the Volunteer State. Tennessee is known as the “Volunteer State” because of the prominent role played by volunteer soldiers from Tennessee. Memorial Day is when those who died in active military service are remembered. We must honor that tradition and those Americans who died for our freedoms.
This year we need to also look at what is happening to our veterans. Did you know that every day in our country 22 veterans commit suicide according to a report released by the Department of Veterans Affairs? We leave our veterans to fight their hardest battles alone.
As Veterans return to civilian life, they are trying to pick up the pieces of their past lives. They are now older, their priorities have shifted, and they have seen things and done things that most people in their lives cannot possibly imagine. We should seek more ways to incorporate veterans back into our world.
We should all see that our veterans who made the ultimate sacrifice be honored, not just on the last Monday in May, but every day. Everyone can agree that we must do more for our veterans. For example, maybe you can attend a ceremony honoring a veteran or active member returning from overseas deployment, or assist a veteran at a hospital, nursing home, or shelter.
I regularly speak at schools, churches, and events when given the opportunity. This one method of offering real-life lessons helps students learn things they would never learn from a textbook. A wide-ranging education should include as many valuable experiences as we can provide, including those learned from our veterans and those still on active duty, along with military spouses, siblings, children, and parents of veterans.
Serving our country was a life-changing experience for me, as it was for most veterans. The leaders and heroes I served with helped shape me into the person I am today. I feel honored to have been a part of such a great tradition and grateful to others who have walked the same path. I am also glad that I did not have to die for my country, although I knew that was a possibility.
It takes courage to risk life and limb for our state and country. The least we can do is to honor these heroes. That is the basis of Memorial Day. We must also appreciate the men and women who wear the uniform, not only with words of appreciation, but also by our actions.
Our society survives by the service and martyrdom of these selfless souls. Tennessee, the Volunteer State, of all the states, should be the first to honor America’s veterans for their patriotism, love of country, and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good. Happy Memorial Day 2017! How will you remember it?