“Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, is a day of remembrance for those who have died in our nation’s service.”
It’s the Memorial Day weekend. For most of us that means leisure, barbeques, picnics, family, friends, and fun. It represents the fruits of living in a prosperous country, even as we climb slowly out of a recession (we hope). But let’s not forget the remembrance.
I served in the U.S. Army Reserve Medical Corps for six years, during which the U.S. did away with the military draft. I had misgivings then and still do. I fear our current all-volunteer military insulates the rest of us from the costs of combat—financial and human. My kids were never at risk, and I pay proportionally so much less in taxes than before Reagan was president—despite two ongoing and very long conflicts. The scars of battle tend to be borne disproportionally by those from lower socio-economic classes.
When a nation asks its young to put their bodies and lives at risk for others, noble souls always step forward. And a proportion of these altruistic and idealistic warriors come home dead or badly damaged. At a minimum we owe them and their families care and protection. It grieves me deeply to hear of families wrecked, homes re-possessed, and veterans with PTSD and traumatic brain injury (the 2 signature injuries of today’s conflicts) receiving sub-optimal care. Whatever the financial sacrifice those of us at home must bear to remediate these hurts, we owe the veterans and their families no less and so much more.
-Alan J. Gelenberg, M.D.
Editor, Biological Therapies in Psychiatry
Shively/Tan Professor and Chair, Psychiatry, Penn State University
Editor-in-Chief, Journal of Clinical Psychiatry