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Veterans Affinity Group

Marking Memorial Day – VA’s Veteran Employees Share Their Thoughts


Ever wondered what Veterans think about the fanfare bestowed on them during days that honor the military, such as Memorial Day?

Woman Around Town reached out to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), which has more than 120,000 Veterans in its workforce of over 365,000 employees, and asked them what they wanted American civilians to know about Veterans. The VA tapped its national Veterans Affinity Group, an employee network of Veterans, to answer that question. Here are their responses:

MANY INDIVIDUALS view Memorial Day as a solemn holiday. I choose to view it as a day to celebrate the very brave men and women who made it possible for us to enjoy our barbecues and family time. While most people automatically focus on the men in the military, women have also been a major part of our armed forces from the earliest national and global conflicts, providing medical care to wounded troops to present-day missile maintainers and combat warriors. As we salute our fallen service members with honor and smile with gratitude, we also acknowledge the role women played in making this great country what it is today.

MY BELOVED America, as we mark Memorial Day recalling the memories of the many men and women who have given their ALL, including their lives, defending what we stand for – “…liberty and for all,” let’s not forget those of us still walking the American soil giving our ALL and those who are walking the American soil HOMELESS. Say a PRAYER and have compassion for every service member and their families, for our sacrifices are many. We LOVE you America; that’s why we SERVED!

REMEMBER the difference between Memorial Day, Veterans Day and Armed Forces Day: Memorial Day honors those who died in service to our nation; Veterans Day honors those living who once served; and Armed Forces Day honors those currently serving.

WE ARE often regarded as heroes, but we are more than that; we are Americans with a sense of responsibility and a love for our country. That is what we should be thanked for, not our service, but for standing up and showing that love.

VETERANS WANT the opportunity to utilize the skills learned during their time in service or after, so they are able to continue to be productive members of society.

MEMORIAL DAY is a day of remembrance and reverence for the men and women who have given their all during their service to our country. Their selfless and ultimate sacrifice is one to be honored and respected on each Memorial Day holiday.

WE SHOULD be grateful for those past, present and future service members for protecting this great nation, especially those who have given their life for us to live free.

LIVING VETERANS should not be thanked or wished a “Happy Memorial Day” on Memorial Day. This is a day to reflect on the fallen veterans who provided the ultimate sacrifice to the country we all love and serve. Civilians need to be reminded about the true meaning of Memorial Day. It isn’t about Memorial Day sales and picnics.

AS A veteran and coming from a large military family, it has always been important for me to know America is great. America is great because there are people who volunteer and are willing to put it all on the line for a country that stands for so many amazing privileges and ideals that many other countries and cultures have no true idea about, including what it really means to be free — free of tyranny in all its shapes and forms. We are the “land of the free and the home of the brave,” but that is truly because of the warrior spirit of multitudes of amazing men and women who have gone before me, and I hope will be there long after I am gone.

I’D LIKE Americans to know that for many of us serving in the military, it isn’t about political affiliations, agendas or politics. There is a bigger picture: our country and what it stands for. We fought and won our independence from England because of the belief that who we were mattered; that the values we held precious were part of who we were and couldn’t be taken away. The right to live free from tyranny and domination and to be able to forge your own future without that being taken way should be all of humankind’s right, not an option. This country is not our leaders; this country is the people. Our leaders and their politics come and go, policies can be changed or nullified, but the essence of what this country stands for will go on forever. As corny as it sounds, the belief in honor, freedom, hard work, right and wrong, self-respect, fairness, equality and hope for a future for our family and friends defines who we are and is the reason why many of us joined the military.

AS A veteran, I would like Americans to remember that Memorial Day is not Veterans Day. I am humbled by the kind words of a grateful nation, but please don’t thank me; just remember the fallen, such as the late Army Sgt. Edward S. Grace, whose life is memorialized in an Army Times tribute.

Vietnam Memorial

Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.. 

MEMORIAL DAY was originally set on May 30, which coincidentally is its date for this year, and it unofficially marks the beginning of summer. This three-day weekend is about more than celebrating the start of summer. As a fourth-generation veteran, I want Americans to use this day to remember our nation’s fallen veterans. Each Memorial Day, my family and I visit Arlington National Cemetery to celebrate the contributions of my uncle Ronald B. Richer and his fellow comrades. This is the true reason why Memorial Day is more than just barbecues and a three-day weekend.

I AM a veteran, a civilian, a federal government employee, an American, a parent and grandfather of three wonderful children, who I pray will never have to be drafted, go to war or deal with a conflict abroad or at home. I was drafted, but stayed in the military for 25 years (ascending through the ranks from E-1 Private to an Officer O-5 before retiring), then spent some time working in the commercial sector before going back to the federal government. I worry about the economy, cost of living, right to privacy, the failures of our government and politics, paying my bills, the safety of my family and trying to understand what is happening in the U.S. and around the world.

MY SERVICE in the military was worth it, and I would do it again. Please exercise the rights we have fought, and currently fight, for you have as U.S. citizens.

VETERANS VOLUNTARILY served and paid the ultimate sacrifice to protect this nation. They should be remembered and honored 365 days a year, not just one.

I WANT civilians to know we have feelings, too, and while many of us carry weapons and have PTSD [post-traumatic stress disorder], we do not look at Americans and see the enemy; we see the people we are sworn to protect. No one told me my watch is over or that my duties are done. They simply gave me a paper called a DD214 [certificate of release or discharge from active duty] and [essentially] said “You are released unless we need you again. Be ready.”

THROUGH SERVICE to my country, my life has been enriched in so many ways. It has been an honor and privilege to serve. It was one of the best decisions I ever made. I want to continue to serve and pay it forward; that is why I work here at the VA.

THE ONE thing I want the civilian population to know is veterans are only trying to do the right thing, since it is the right thing to do. Those who love us, often sacrifice the most.

AS WE commemorate this Memorial Day with all the traditional holiday festivities, we should take a few moments in our day to remember all the women and men who sacrificed their lives for the freedoms we so enjoy. Lest we forget, they are not forgotten.

IT IS is easy to say you support veterans. Talk is cheap; action takes time, energy and resources. If you support veterans and believe they have earned their Veteran benefits, then hold your elected officials accountable for delivering that support. If you believe the VA needs to be accountable for delivering the benefits you support, then hold your elected officials accountable for giving the VA the resources and responsibility needed to establish accountability. You cannot expect accountability from individuals when they do not have the authority, responsibility and resources to carry out your requirements. Demanding action without caring about how it gets accomplished creates ethical dilemmas. Because the VA is staffed by humans, we will have some that rise to the top and some that sink lower than we think possible.

Top photo: Gravestones decorated with U.S. flags to commemorate Memorial Day at the Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia, near Washington DC, with Pentagon in the background.

Both photos from Bigstock.