Story last updated at 5/20/2009 - 11:04 am
On the last Monday of this month, many of us will have a sleep-in day, eat hot dogs and hamburgers and enjoy a day off with pay. Unfortunately some will not understand or take the time to truly appreciate the reasons for such a holiday.
Memorial Day is our country's official day to commemorate the men and women who died while in military service. Many Americans also use this time to honor other family members no longer with us.
Earlier this month on May 6, as happens every day in our country, an American hero quietly passed away. There was no big announcement in the New York Times and it went unreported on the 24-hour cable news shows.
Frank Abner Newsom, 86, was a World War II Veteran. He proudly served his country in what historians describe as the deadliest conflict in human history. His service to our country did not end with the war. He transferred to active duty Marine Corp. Reserves until 1974. Frank was also a civil service employee working at Tinker Air Force Base until his retirement in 1981. Frank not only loved his country, but he proudly served it his entire life.
Frank Newsom also had other very important roles, one being my grandfather-in-law. My husband's grandfather is an American hero. He was a member of the "greatest generation," but he was also simply "Pa," a role he so enjoyed with his kids, grandchildren and great grandchildren.
My husband Jeff and I had a conversation that really sparked this column. We were speaking of our country's obligation to those who serve. He said it best: "We talk a good game in this country, but we don't deliver." He's right. We all care, but there are too many veterans who get inadequate medical, educational, housing and mental health services.
The Obama administration has announced that they are seeking a 15 percent budget increase, the largest one-year percentage increase in over 30 years, for veteran services and upgrades. This should not and cannot be a political issue.
I have to confess, when this administration in March proposed that our vets use their own private insurance for treatment of injuries suffered in the line of duty, I had a very immediate response of great disappointment and anger. Apparently, this was the reaction of many and it seems the administration has taken this off the table for now.
Then there's homelessness: According to the US. Department of Veterans Affairs, over the course of a year, 336,627 veterans experience homelessness. In years past the face of homeless vets were typically men. This is no longer the case. The faces of homeless vets are now men, women and children.
All this being said, what does the average person do to help this situation? The first step is to be informed. The second step is to reach out and help organizations that are already set up to help veterans and all homeless individuals. Volunteer or donate to local shelters. Juneau's Glory Hole has an excellent program and is always seeking volunteers and donations. The third step is to write your representatives and demand their attention on veteran issues.
Many will take time to remember our love ones no longer with us. This can sometimes be joyful and sad. I believe those we've lost would not want us to always be sad, but they would appreciate the remembrance of the joy they brought into our lives.
So it is important to spend time with family and friends and to appreciate all our love ones. Enjoy your Memorial Day, and Pa, we'll have a hot dog for you!
Laura L. Newsom is the general manager of the Capital City Weekly. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.