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Speaking Out in Honor of the Fallen

On Memorial Day, remember that our brave fallen soldiers did not die so that our veterans could come home and be treated in so contemptible a manner.

U.S. Navy, Lt. Commander (Ret.) Michael Young, of Bellefonte, Pa., bows his head during a Veterans Day ceremony outside the Centre County Courthouse, in Bellefonte, Pa., Monday, Nov. 11, 2013. Americans are commemorating the service and sacrifice of military service members this Veterans Day. (AP Photo/Centre Daily Times, Nabil K. Mark) MAGS OUT MANDATORY CREDIT

I often see them when I’m in an airport, and I always take a moment to thank them. I’m almost always choking back a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes as I do it. The emotion results from my understanding of what they have done and continue to do for me, and every American. I also know that for every one I see alive and well, there are many others permanently hurt, or dead.

I’m one of the lucky ones. My brother came back.

Have you ever personally thanked a veteran? Particularly, have you ever personally thanked a combat veteran?

U.S. Navy, Lt. Commander (Ret.) Michael Young, of Bellefonte, Pa., bows his head during a Veterans Day ceremony outside the Centre County Courthouse, in Bellefonte, Pa., Monday, Nov. 11, 2013.  Americans are commemorating the service and sacrifice of military service members this Veterans Day. (AP Photo/Centre Daily Times, Nabil K. Mark)  MAGS OUT MANDATORY CREDIT U.S. Navy, Lt. Commander (Ret.) Michael Young, of Bellefonte, Pa., bows his head during a Veterans Day ceremony outside the Centre County Courthouse, in Bellefonte, Pa., Monday, Nov. 11, 2013. Americans are commemorating the service and sacrifice of military service members this Veterans Day. (AP Photo/Centre Daily Times, Nabil K. Mark)

Watch their face the next time you do. They’ll smile politely and answer with a “thank you ma’am” or “thank you, sir” in return, but watch their eyes closely next time. If you blink, you’ll miss it. A deep pain, unlike any most of us will ever know or experience, passes through their eyes. For a moment you’re given a rare opportunity to experience the depth of their devotion.

For many of these veterans, every “thank you” they receive triggers a familiar sequence.

“I’m not a hero. The guy who died next to me is.”

Followed suit by:

Why did I live, and he die?”

On Memorial Day, we honor those men and women who didn’t make it back. We honor every single fallen soldier to whom we owe our precious freedoms.

This Memorial Day, I’m writing to plead with those who did make it back alive:

Let us thank you. Let us honor the memory of the fallen today by recognizing you for your heroism as well.

A pin-decorated jacket during the 48th annual Auburn Veterans Day Parade in downtown Auburn, Wash Saturday Nov. 9, 2013. The parade is one of the largest parades to honor veterans in the country. (AP Photo/seattlepi.com, Joshua Trujillo) A pin-decorated jacket during the 48th annual Auburn Veterans Day Parade in downtown Auburn, Wash Saturday Nov. 9, 2013. The parade is one of the largest parades to honor veterans in the country. (AP Photo/seattlepi.com, Joshua Trujillo) 

More specifically, allow yourselves to be praised for doing a job. It is not only your right to accept this praise, but consider it your sacred duty in honor of those who didn’t make it back to receive it. You would have given your lives in an instant to save theirs if you had had the chance, and indeed, you would insist that they receive the honor and praise they deserve upon returning home.

Let yourselves receive this praise, which is the very least we can do for those who pledged to give their very lives to keep us safe. Let yourselves receive this praise without the burden of guilt. You have earned it.

In recent days, the country has finally become aware of yet another burden that you’ve carried—the despicable way in which so many of you have been treated by the very Veterans Administration system that was meant to serve you in return for your service to this country.

I know all too well that many of you fear retribution for speaking the truth about your experiences with the VA, (after all, we’ve seen what happens to some the employee whistleblowers) and I certainly don’t ask you to endanger access to your own care by speaking out.

Credit Scott Anderson /AP Credit: Scott Anderson /AP 

But for those who feel that you can do so, on this Memorial Day you can honor the memory of the fallen by speaking out about your own treatment. You can honor the fallen by continuing to fight for your own lives; lives that were spared on the battlefield.

If you remember nothing else from this piece, remember this: those brave brothers and sisters of yours whose blood stains the fields of foreign lands did not die so that you could come home and be treated in so contemptible a manner. On this Memorial Day (and now, under the protection of the light of truth that has been shed on this matter), I plead with you to speak out.

I know we’ll never understand your burden. We can’t possibly. And that’s why your voices are so important.

I know we’ll never understand your burden. We can’t possibly. And that’s why your voices are so important.

You have fought well, good and faithful soldiers. You’ve done what your country asked you to do . . . and now I humbly ask you to fight this one last battle.

I know that many of you will never be able to fully accept praise for what you’ve done for us. I further realize that many of you (even if you don’t fear retribution for speaking out) feel that it’s not your right to call attention to your individual plight. Today, I know I speak for millions of Americans when I say it absolutely is.

If not for yourselves . . . then do it in honor of the fallen.

Mary Ramirez is a full time writer, creator of www.afuturefree.com--a political commentary blog, and contributor to the Chris Salcedo Show. She can be reached at: afuturefree@aol.com; or on Twitter: @AFutureFree

TheBlaze contributor channel supports an open discourse on a range of views. The opinions expressed in this channel are solely those of each individual author.

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