Hays: Invisible woundsWritten by Pam Hays | | email@example.com
This month we honor our military members who have died in war. In recent years, we’ve extended the honor to all military members and veterans who have died and place a flag on those graves, too.
Memorial Day is a day to remember the many sacrifices made by our citizens who have served, the families who supported them and those who have lost their loved ones. Dying of “war wounds” has changed meaning in the past few years. Though many still die on the battlefields where war is fought, many more are now dying from the outcomes of war wounds right here in the United States.
Traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress, the invisible wounds, are taking our military members’ and veterans’ lives by suicide and substance abuse in astounding numbers. Seldom do these families get to be included in honor events. Seldom do the deceased ever get honor; instead they get criticism due to how they died because of the misconceptions about invisible wounds.
This long weekend, bands will march in parades. Children along the parade routes will anxiously wait for candy to be tossed in front of them. Burgers will be on the grill and some will take advantage of a military holiday and light up some fireworks. Beer will be consumed and families will gather.
But, I wonder how many will take the time to reflect on what Memorial Day truly means. I wonder if caring thoughts will be expressed to families left behind. I wonder if parents or grandparents will spend time sharing not only the “celebration” during Memorial Day weekend, but also the history behind it and why to this day it still has deep meaning for every U.S. citizen.
As a grandma, I know my grandchildren are keenly aware of what I do to assist veterans and families through The Arms Forces nonprofit I founded. I’ve wondered in the past if my example and my talks with them were making a difference in their lives. This recent text I received from my sweet 13-year-old granddaughter Parris assures me it does matter. Here is an excerpt from the text: “As a granddaughter I want to tell you I am very proud of my Grandma. I love every second watching you help other people. … You teach me so much about not giving up and working hard. I love you so much and let me know if you need any more help at all with The Arms Forces because I always love to help. I love you Grandma.”
I think you will agree with me that children do pay attention. Even the younger ones like my Espn and Reign, who, when they see the American flag, always say “Look Grandma! For you!” They equate our nation’s colors with me giving back to our military, our veterans and their families.
I love this!
Today, share with a child what it means to sacrifice by serving in the military. If you don’t know how to approach the subject with them, let us know and we can assist you. When civilians and veterans come together in communities it fosters understanding. Understanding decreases the stigma that civilians sometimes have about military members and veterans. Reduced stigma benefits the entire community.
How can you reach out to help your community understand more fully? The Arms Forces assists veterans by educating communities. Let us know if you have a group, school or workplace that would welcome a speaker from The Arms Forces. Take the time to send a note, shake a hand, volunteer for and support those who are supporting our military and veterans.
The best way for all of us to honor those service members who have lost their lives in war zones, or on the streets of our nation’s communities or under a bridge lost and broken, is by ensuring that those who remain are adequately cared for and given the best possible chance at a quality life. “Freedom is not free” is more than a slogan. It is the truth that is so easy to brush off in our everyday lives.
As you go about your days, think about the freedoms that are taken for granted that someone had to put on a military uniform to defend. It is more than religion, free speech and the right to bear arms. It is the ability to have a superstore loaded with choices and always having food on the shelves. It is the ability to send your child to a private school and the right for you to pursue your career choice.
It is the right for you to make your decisions with how you spend your earned money. It is even the right to participate in honoring our fallen this weekend, or to ignore it; one freedom I hope none of you will choose. Freedoms are so much more evident in our daily lives than maybe some of us have given much thought to. I ask you today to reflect on the day, share the meaning of the day and take action to ensure those still fighting for our freedoms and those fighting the battle of visible and invisible wounds at home have the freedom to receive timely and assessable care. They should be honored for their service by having their basic needs met and their service remembered not only on celebratory days, but 365 days a year!
Pam Hays is president and founder of The Arms Forces, www.thearmsforces.org; (419) 891-2111; Facebook.com/thearmsforces.