Monday, May 26, 2014

Honoring the Ultimate Sacrifice

I do not know the dignity of their birth, but I do know the glory of their death. They died unquestioning, uncomplaining, with faith in their hearts, and on their lips the hope that we would go on to victory. Always for them: Duty, Honor, Country. Always their blood, and sweat, and tears, as they saw the way and the light. -- General Douglas MacArthur

Today, I took my son and granddaughter to visit two war memorials in Tallahassee, Florida.

The first one was the Korean War Memorial. 

The Korean War Memorial in Tallahassee, Florida

Cloee and Drew at the Korean War Memorial in Tallahassee, FL.

The Korean War happened before I was born, but this war is special to me because my stepfather, Jerry Capps, fought in Korea. If you knew Jerry, you'd find it hard to believe that he has ever been anywhere outside of Perote, Alabama. I don't think he wanted to go to Korea, but he went anyway and did his part. As a matter of fact, he did more than his part by rescuing his platoon which was surrounded by the enemy. In 1999, he received the Bronze Star he earned in 1951. 

Jerry in Korea 1951

Jerry hated being in Korea. Today, even with advanced dementia, Jerry will say aloud, "Thank you, God, that I'm not in Korea anymore."

The second memorial we visited today was the Vietnam War Memorial.

Even though this war was during my lifetime, I was too young to know much about it. However, I have learned a great deal about this war from my husband who served three tours in Vietnam. 

Today, we still see the effects of this war. When they returned from Vietnam, the veterans were disregarded by the country that told them to fight. Today, homeless veterans number between 130,000 to 200,000. Of these, 47% are Vietnam veterans. A VA counselor once told me that the type of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder that Vietnam veterans have is quite different from other veterans. She said they suffer from not only the effects of what they witnessed during the conflict but also from not feeling any worth when they returned home. 

Our government and the Veterans Administration totally missed the mark when it came to Vietnam veterans. The VA talks of not repeating these mistakes with the veterans returning from war today; however, the organization is still has many problems. Recently, the VA has been in the news for making veterans wait extraordinarily long periods of time for health care -- care that in some cases means life or death. After returning from Iraq, former Army Sgt. Vannessa Turner told  ABCNEWS, "Once you come back to be a veteran, it's like a black hole, you know -- nothing." Personally, I know veterans who have had to wait as much as six months for a medical appointment. The VA has poured more money into the appearance of excellent health care, but the problems are still there.

I took my son and granddaughter to see these memorials today to teach them the important sacrifice people make for this country.

The people who paid the ultimate price are remembered by us all on this national Memorial Day. They are remembered by the ones who loved them every day.