Memorial Day began during the Civil War as Decoration Day. As the bloodiest war in American history to date, African Americans freed from slavery first started the tradition by landscaping and cleaning up the unmarked burial ground at the Charleston Race Track in Charleston, North Carolina. Soon thereafter, following the battle of Gettysburg, the Union states adopted the holiday for themselves. Over time, the Southern states joined in, the nation fought more wars, and the holiday became a day of national remembrance for those who lost their lives in wars.
Now, 150 years after the American Civil War, and as we continue being involved with wars in order to protect and defend the American values of freedom, democracy, and human dignity at home and abroad, we are unfortunately adding to the numbers who should be remembered on this holiday. However, with increases in military and medical technology, we should also be mindful of the many veterans who have returned home in recent years with severe physical disabilities or, in some cases, with unscathed bodies hiding their very real closed head traumas and mental disabilities. Honoring our living and still serving veterans is just as important as remembering the sacrifices of the deceased.
As much as ever, it is vital that the Veterans Administration and soldiers meet in their shared benefits space. For many veterans, it is about becoming knowledgeable about their rights and available benefits. If you are a veteran, getting the benefits you need now is as important as preparing for the benefits you may need in the future. Learning about the many options and benefits to which you are eligible is important. Education, job search, housing, child care, and medical benefits are available now to many veterans. Additionally, VA Aid & Attendance Non Service Connected Disability benefit, or service connected disability pensions may be down the road for others. Proper planning, including a QVap Trust may ensure that veterans in need of Aid & Attendance benefits are able to obtain them.
For many others, the difficulty is in getting their needed care and benefits from the V.A. The increasing wait times and highly publicized failures of the V.A. to effectively deal will mental illness as a result of war does a disservice to our veterans. For their part, the V.A. is reworking its definition of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) amid much criticism following diagnosis reversals and general failure to recognize PTSD symptoms in soldiers. They are also working to reduce veteran homelessness and wait times for benefit hearings and decisions.
So while you celebrate this hot dog and beer-filled long weekend, please remember to thank and honor our troops who have given so much in many wars during the last century. We hope everyone has a safe and happy holiday weekend.
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