Who do we thank on Memorial Day?

The following was submitted by my lovely cousin-in-law Erin Holmes.

On this Memorial Day who do we thank for their service? It is not Veterans Day, so, thanking a living service member is actually not the proper custom; however, is it only for those who died in battle or is this day for any service member who protected their country and died that we thank? This question is faced by so many people and service members who remember their dead heroes and heroines in different ways today.

      If we only thank only those who died on the battle field then what happens to our veterans and their families who died or lost someone from service connected conditions after returning home from war or years fighting stateside in support of their fighting family? Who honors those that died waiting for care at the VA or from mental health issues sustained during service and complete and utter CRIMINAL MALPRACTICE!!! that takes place at the Veteran's Hospitals national wide? Who honors those killed by the cancer from the open air burns pits our congress placed on almost every single base overseas, suicide, heart attacks, drug and alcohol addiction, homelessness and those who lived and died with debilitating chronic pain for their entire adult lives, Military Sexual Trauma, PTSD, etc (just to name a few)? Do we honor them today?
     As a disabled, gay, female, combat veteran who spent a year in Iraq as an Army Truck Driver, and 11 years in the US Army, you bet your sweet bleach flavored canteen I do! I honor every single one of my brothers and sisters-in-arms who wrote that blank check for their country, even if an IED or bullet didn't take their lives, even if they didn't die "gloriously" in battle because guess what? There is no "glory" in combat, there is a whole lot of fear and there is pain but "glorious" wouldn't be a word I would use to depict convoy ops in Iraq for a year... It isn't Call of Duty where you have a reset button..
     I remember them because they stood for the rights of every person in this country to include my own with their heartbeats and never asked for a thank you. They left their families and friends and would be willing to take a bullet head on for their country irregardless of if their hand at life delivered them to any combat action, even if they were "only" the person who fixed my truck after I broke it on a convoy, cooked my food, or got me paid on time. I honor them all because it is the right thing to do and because if I didn't make that choice my two brothers (who on the same day 5 years apart) made the permanent choice for a temporary problem and took their own lives wouldn't be remembered, my two brothers who died in their 30's from brain cancer from guarding burn pits wouldn't be remembered, and my father who die of skin cancer on active duty when I was 14 from being outside working with artillery every day, for 20 years, wouldn't be remembered... Memorial Day is to remember any person brave enough to button up those cammies and protect their country from home or abroad. Memorial Day is for those who broke their bodies and hearts for the call of civic responsibility and died with honor for the freedom that they gave up for so that this country could have what it does.. No matter it's current flaws or growing pains.


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