Honor memories with more than words
Our calendar is full of days of remembrance and celebration, like Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, days that capture the spirit of the American family. Memorial Day is more somber in tone but no different in spirit – it is an occasion to remember and honor the mothers, fathers, sons, and daughters who have courageously served in uniform.As I think on the meaning of Memorial Day, I remember my father, Henry, a proud World War II veteran. At the age of 82, he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. One day, as we were all gathered around the kitchen table, we heard him fumbling in his bedroom. When he came out, he had his staff sergeant uniform in hand. And he said:”Bury me in this uniform.”Two years later, he collapsed from a heart attack when we were out working the land. As I lifted him on the gurney to take him to the hospital, he grabbed my neck and pulled me closer. He told me he loved me. And with his last breath, he whispered:”Uniform.”There were two things my father never did forget, although he had forgotten almost everything else in life – the love he had for his family and the love he had for his country. He was so proud to have served in uniform.After caring for my father during his battle with Alzheimer’s, we came to understand too clearly the challenges facing our nation’s veterans.Veterans in rural communities have to travel up to five hours to access promised health care services. Survivors and military families are denied their full benefits. And disabled veterans face an awful tax on their pension and disability payments. It is a shame that men and women who willingly risked their lives for our freedom are forced to continue to fight battles for benefits when they return home.Which is why now, as a member of Congress, I am passionate about making sure we truly honor the service of our troops and veterans. We must provide them with more than words of remembrance. We must provide our military families with the care and support they were promised.President Abraham Lincoln gave our nation a mandate so many years ago – “care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan.” That obligation still binds us today. This Memorial Day, let us salute the fallen and comfort their families. Let us thank the millions of veterans among us for their sacrifices by keeping our promise to them and giving them our care. For those who have gone before, there can be no greater memorial.Congressman John Salazar is a veteran who served in the Vietnam era and represents the Third Congressional District of Colorado.Congressman John Salazar is a veteran who served in the Vietnam era and represents the Third Congressional District of Colorado.
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