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Memorial Day reminds us to honor vets with deeds



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May 20, 2013
Memorial Day is the day we set aside to remember the service and the sacrifice. Many will make that remembrance at the golf course or on a beach. But many more will join the services in the area.

The Johns Creek Veterans Association is sponsoring a Memorial Day picnic Saturday that will include a tour of the site for the Johns Creek War Memorial at Newtown Park. Residents will be given a tour of the 4 acres the city set aside for that purpose.

In Roswell, the city and the Rotary Club of Roswell will again be host to the largest Memorial Day celebration in the state. Set on the grounds of City Hall with that city's war memorial as a backdrop, it is a ceremony that is all about veterans.

The most moving part of their program comes at the end with its "open mike" time. Anyone may come forward to say what is in one's heart. Some talk about a loved one's service or a comrade in arms. It is my favorite part of the service.

North Fulton and South Forsyth residents are unusually demonstrative in their support of today's American troops, if bumper stickers and American flags displayed on houses are any indication.

Across America, veterans organizations and patriotic nonprofit organizations are working to help vets and their families after they leave the service.

That is because our government has a tendency to ignore their needs and dismiss pleas for help.

All too often we read or hear of veterans who are used up after service in two wars that have dragged on for more than 10 years. More and more, we are seeing young men and women coming home after multiple tours of duty.

The military reservists are particularly affected. I always thought the reserves were just that: citizen soldiers who answer the call in a national emergency to back up the standing permanent military.

But the reality seems to be something different.

They are more like our first line of defense. Our regular military already defending the U.S.'s far-flung interests simply doesn't have the manpower to conduct sustained major operations such as Iraq and Afghanistan.

Nor are they supplied adequately for the mission at hand. I still remember how U.S. troops early in the wars were given inadequate body armor and Humvees with no armor at all. Stories came back of how they were forced to forage for scrap metal in a pathetic attempt to protect themselves from ambush by militants.

Now the "citizen soldiers" are returning for their third, fourth and fifth tours of duty. Imagine these reservists trying to hold onto a civilian career and maintain family relationships while answering the country's call again and again.

And we wonder why military personnel have higher rates of suicide than the general public.

Documentaries of the neglect of our soldiers have become a cottage industry. The many private nonprofit foundations such as Wounded Warriors and the Folded Edges have sprung up to fill that gap as men and women come home scarred and maimed, physically and emotionally. They take up the task that the government has failed to perform adequately.

So while it is right and good that we take time in our Memorial Day weekend to honor our most current veterans, we must do more.

And when we meet our Washington delegates at Congress who come home to bathe this weekend in the reflected glory of their service, shake their hand. But look them in the eye and demand they do more in Congress to meet the basic needs of our men and women who have given so much for we who are blessed beyond measure.

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