(Post 2 of 2 – Memorial Day 2012 – Read post 1 “Chicago Honors the Fallen”)
I’ve spoken here before about the history and gravity of Memorial Day:
Of course, having served in three branches of the military, I believe it’s important to honor those who’ve sacrificed life and limb to protect democratic principles.
However, it’s even more important to support their families and their communities – those who must find a way to carry on without their father or mother, son or daughter, sister or brother, colleague or friend – and those who must find a way to rebuild their lives around a loved one’s debilitating war injury.
What Mattered Most to Me
Five years have passed since I was in harm’s way on a Memorial Day. But I can tell you – without a doubt – if I had been killed in action while in Afghanistan, I would NOT have wanted you to spend this holiday remembering me.
Instead, I would’ve wanted you to remember the family I left behind. I would’ve wanted you to help them in whatever way you could. Nothing fancy or extravagant. Perhaps just a hand of friendship, comfort and support – a presence that I could no longer provide.
Our nation asks so much of its military families, without offering much in return.
But we can fill that gap. We should fill that gap. It’s the least we can do for a fallen warrior’s loved ones who must carry on alone.
Human Toll: Let’s Do the Math
Relative to past wars, which involved active commitment from a larger proportion of citizens, many Americans may feel untouched by Afghan and Iraq war casualties. But here’s what statistics show:
Since 9/11/2001 – 6,440* US troops have died and 48,253** have been wounded in Afghanistan and Iraq operations.
That’s almost 55,000 US lives lost or disrupted by war in the past decade.
Now, imagine how many other lives have, by association, been irreversibly altered by those casualties. This is the legacy that fallen servicemen and women leave behind. Broken family and community circles in every state. Ripples that stretch far and wide across our country – cutting deeply into homes, neighborhoods, businesses and other institutions. It’s a loss of human potential that we can never fully calculate.
What Can We Do?
This Memorial Day, I ask you to remember those who sacrificed so much for us in recent years, by reaching out in some way to military families you may know, or by supporting one of the many organizations devoted to making a difference. It won’t restore what has been lost, but it can make a genuine difference.
Below is a short list of resources that exist to help military families who are facing death or disability. You may want to connect with one of these organizations. But of course, it doesn’t take an institution to offer a helping hand. As Mother Theresa recommended to those hoping to make a difference among the world’s neediest people:
“Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person.”
Whatever you choose to do – may your goodwill bring peace of mind to others, and may it return to you in abundance.
Thanks for keeping the spirit of service and sacrifice alive.
Organizations Serving Families of Lost & Wounded Troops (short list):
- American Widow Project
- Children of Fallen Patriots
- Fisher House Foundation
- Healing Heroes Network
- Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund
- Iraq & Afghanistan Veterans of America Supporters
- Military Families United
- Semper Fi Fund
- Special Operations Warrior Foundation
- Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPs)
- Wounded Warrior Project
Sources of Statistics – Afghanistan/Iraq Operations Casualties: