By COMMANDER LEW HARDING
AMERICAN LEGION POST 143
On Memorial Day, Monday, May 26, our nation honors its fallen heroes. In Cherokee, at the Yellowhill Veterans Memorial Cemetery, our ceremony will be at 11am. Please come and be with us as we pause to remember those who gave all of their tomorrows to ensure that ours would be free. We are all indebted to them. Their names are chiseled in stone on thousands of white markers standing in uniform rows around the world.
In World War II, 16 million Americans served, and 406,000 fell. Around the world, over 53 million lives were lost. In Korea, over 43,000 Americans died. In Vietnam, 58,267 and Iraq/Afghanistan took the lives of 4,494 military men and women plus tens of thousands of other civilians and military casualties.
Some of the motivations for these wars were misguided, some would say foolish, not very well thought out and poorly led. Planning for the aftermath of these conflicts in caring for our veterans has been, in some quarters, criminally-deficient. Our veterans sacrificed because many back home would not, going about their business as if the nation were not at war.
Now, after spending about a trillion dollars on the last two conflicts, scandals have exploded at six regional Veterans Affairs Centers. The bureaucracies allegedly used creative sleight of hand to obscure the fact that some of our seriously wounded warriors were not getting the medical help that they needed, and were promised, in a timely manner. Some 40 veterans have died while waiting. This is unconscionable, a national tragedy. Fortunately, the leadership and staff of our Charles George Medical Center in Asheville has not been part of this process and has responded to our needs in an excellent manner. We are thankful for that, and we ask that it continue.
The promises we made, we have to keep. Healing the wounds of war is many times a very long process. The sacrifices that we honor on Memorial Day should never be taken for granted. The spirit of patriotism and love of country is not buried with our loved ones up on Yellowhill and around the world. It lives on.
On this Memorial Day, let us pledge ourselves anew to our Country and be the friend and brother, son and mother to those who have lost loved ones. They won freedom for friend and foe alike, and we are forever in their debt. We are all beneficiaries of their love of country, and we will never, never forget.