When I lived in Northome, Minnesota, our VFW and Members of the Legion would do Honor Guard duty on Memorial Day. We would split into two groups as there were so many small cemeteries in our area. At each cemetery we would have a flag placed at the grave of each veteran, we would read off their names, and say a short prayer. Then we would do a rifle salute and Taps were sounded on a trumpet. We would also lay a Memorial Wreath at one of the graves.
After we finished all the small cemeteries, our group would stop at the Ardenhurst Township Hall and have coffee and donuts. After that both Honor Guard details would come together, and we would go to the Nursing Home and do the same thing without the graves, but we would place a wreath under the flag pole. Then we would all go the big cemetery in Northome and do it again. It was very moving, and I believe it was good a good thing for the community.
Now, I live down South in Florida and no longer belong to the VFW. There isn't a Post here, or in any town nearby. For the last ten years I have spent a little time on Memorial Day thinking back to my time in the service, and I wonder. I wonder about the guys who made it back, and I wonder about the guys who didn't make it back.
Then I start thinking about the way veterans were treated after the Vietnam War, and how they are treated now. When I came home, it was not a plus to be a Veteran. Today, people pretend it is, but that isn't true. Sure, they have all these "Salutes to Veterans" and the military at sporting events, but now we find out that the Pentagon pays to have those — essentially, the military is paying for advertising so they can keep getting recruits.
We are constantly asked for money on both the TV and radio from organizations that claim they help Veterans, but when you check them out, the Board of Directors are paid hundreds of thousands of dollars.
It has been reported that over 22 Veterans a day are killing themselves, so what do we have for entertainment on Memorial Day weekend? Nonstop war movies. What does NPR have? A long program on PTSD where the guy talking about it is not even a veteran, but claims he has PTSD, and how drugs were needed to help him.
In between the war movies there are pitches to send in money to help wounded warriors or a retired Navy Admiral selling home refinancing that will allow you to get "extra" money to pay off credit cards and CASH to do with what you want. What he is not telling you is that you will be way further in debt. That is supposed to be a thank you for being a Veteran. If you are a Veteran, or even a shirt tail relative of a Veteran, an insurance company will let you buy a special (wave the flag here) Veterans car insurance.
In-between the war movies and the asking for money or the selling of loans and car insurance, you can always watch tributes to the fallen where you can listen to military marching music, and hear sad stories about those who died in service.
Still, 22 a day... and we wonder why.
So, if you are a Veteran, and this weekend has put you on edge, be sure to have a pencil or pen and paper on hand when you call the VA for help, because you are only going to get a recorded message telling you a new number to call to talk to a real person. Don't get too upset if they put you on hold.
Of course after this weekend, you as a Veteran will be forgotten for another year. So this is the time to get help. Start calling all the programs you see asking for money, and see if they have any help for you.
My advice? Well, since you asked, do whatever you have been doing, and if somebody wants to put you on drugs for the rest of your life, run or roll away as fast as you can. There is help out there, but it is going to take you years to get it, and it is better to know that going in, than to search for help thinking that Memorial Day sentiments are real.
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