Memorial Day, formerly Decoration Day, in the United States (last Monday in May) honoring those who have died in the nation’s wars. It originated during the American Civil War when citizens placed flowers on the graves of those who had been killed in battle. In 1868, John A. Logan, the commander in chief of the Grand Army of the Republic, an organization of Union veterans, promoted a national holiday on May 30 “for the purpose of strewing flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion.” After WWI, as the day came to be observed in honor of those who had died in all U.S. wars, its named changed from Decoration Day to Memorial Day. Since 1971 Memorial Day has been observed on the last Monday in May. Memorial Day is observed with the laying of a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia, and by religious services, parades, and speeches nationwide. Flags, insignia, and flowers are placed on the graves of veterans in local cemeteries. The day has also come to signal the beginning of summer in the United States. Encyclopedia Britannica
As we approach this weekend and prepare for time with family, friends, visiting cemeteries to honor and remember loved ones and veterans, attending parades, and remembering those who have died while serving in our great United States Armed Forces; let us not forget those who served in the United States military and lost their war on mental illness.
Long after the war was over, and these veterans returned home, they continued to fight. Physically they were home and surrounded by loved ones, but mentally they were still fighting overseas. They returned from war, but the war never ended. Each day they woke up and tried to assimilate back into a society that didn’t understand. They gave everything they had to be home, forget the past, and defeat the demons that robbed them of peace. They followed the orders of those who wore suits and sat in offices thousands of miles away. They tried with all they had, but eventually lost the battle. Remember them.
Since retiring from the United States Air Force, I personally know or had worked with at least a dozen individuals who lost their battle to mental illness. The stigma or thought that if we “suck it up” just long enough it will go away, needs to end. The horrible lie that mental illness is weakness must end. Just as prejudice, sexual assault, and discrimination has no place within the ranks of our military, so should discrimination against those who recognize something inside themselves isn’t right and seek help.
Being Mental Health Awareness Month, the recent shooting in an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, and also Memorial Day weekend, I wanted to touch on this sensitive topic. We have to do better, not just within the ranks of the military, but also as a society and culture. We have to stop isolating those who already feel alone. We have to reach out, ask tough questions that might make us, or the other person feel uncomfortable, and not be afraid of being the “bad guy” if we feel someone is a danger to themselves or others. If you’re reading this and you are fighting a battle and not winning, don’t wait to get help.
If you or someone you know needs help or would like to speak to someone,
24/7 Confidential Crisis Support – National Suicide Prevention Lifeline & Veterans Crisis Line:
1-800-273-8255 or Text 838255
or Contact this website and we will put you in touch with someone in your area who can help you.
I didn’t mean to turn this in a Mental Health Awareness post, but I won’t apologize. I don’t want you to be spending next Memorial Day going to the graveside of a loved one because they felt they were alone in their battle against mental health.
This Memorial Day, please don’t just think about and honor those who lost their lives during our Nation’s wars and conflicts. It isn’t just about those veterans who died on the fields of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, in Blanc Mont Ridge, France, the beaches of Normandy France, jungles of Vietnam and Korea, sands of Iraq, or the mountains of Afghanistan. So many lives have been lost long after the combat ended, men and women returned home, and medals were handed out. Remember them.
“Memorial Day.” Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica, inc. Accessed May 26, 2022. https://www.britannica.com/topic/Memorial-Day.
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