CDR Carl B. Forkner, Ph.D., USN(Ret)
To everyone out there who receives this, greetings.
Today is a solemn day on which we remember those who served our country and made the ultimate sacrifice. As scripture tells us in John 15:13 – Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.
Many who made the ultimate sacrifice did so by choice; others did so because they were drafted. But however they came into service of our great country, their sacrifice paid a price for the freedom under which we take time on this Memorial Day to remember them.
From the American Revolution, to the Civil War, to World War I (the “Great War” and supposedly the “War to end all Wars”) to World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, and all the smaller conflicts and battles between, we owe a debt of gratitude to those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom. Today, our dead are escorted home in a flag-draped casket, with people paying respects every step along the way. To think that just a half-century ago our brave men and women who died in Vietnam and Southeast Asia came home in their flag-draped caskets to protests, lashing out, and disrespect. Has America as a citizenry changed, or was the change because of this generation’s “Pearl Harbor” — the terrorist attacks on 9-11? It is a question that only we can answer for ourselves as individuals…
Over the last decade, we have added a growing death toll of those who served that we can all help to curtail. Today, about 22 active military and military Veterans pay the ultimate price by taking their own lives. These are the men and women who served and came back from conflict, but within whom the conflict still continues. Men and women who had personal traumatic events during their service that ended, but within whom the trauma still resides. Men and women of every age, race, color, creed, lifestyle, hopes and fears.
On the field of battle, a leader does what they can to minimize casualties. Nobody wants to have to make that call, write that letter, knock on that door. Nobody wants to have to stand in front of a service member or Veteran’s family member and hand them the folded flag and shells from the volleys as the 21-gun salute was fired. But still we have to do it…
…and now we lose more service members and Veterans each day than we lose in operational casualties by 2-3 orders of magnitude. If you think of the numbers, that is about 8,030 service members and Veterans each year who take their lives. That is enough men and women to fully man two Brigades, or an entire aircraft carrier battle group, or more than 20 aircraft squadrons, or two full sides of military personnel in the Pentagon (out of the five sides of the building).
Now imagine…that number happens EVERY YEAR… That is about 1,000 more deaths each year than the total service member deaths from Operation Desert Storm, Operation Enduring Freedom, and Operation Iraqi Freedom COMBINED!
If they only knew how many people care! It only takes one to save one — one person, one minute, one smile, one time to have the strength to intervene, one time to listen and care…
If you feel like the challenges of life are too much to bear, or if you know someone who feels that way, has been acting different that usual, is giving other people prized possessions with no explanation, no longer wants to do the things they have always enjoyed…or other similar symptoms, PLEASE have them call the Veterans Crisis Line at:
Veterans Crisis Line
Go online: www.veteranscrisisline.net
If you don’t call the crisis line, PLEASE — call or talk with someone! Remember, it only takes one to save one. You don’t need to be a Veterans to help–you just need to be a friend with whom someone can talk…and have someone listen. Encourage them, stay with them, take them to get help if they need it…but PLEASE don’t be a bystander…
Hooah Semper Fi Semper Fortis Aim High Semper Paratus
I have been involved with laying to rest 28 service members and Veterans — about one for every year I served — and attended other service member funerals. I have made the untimely knock on the door too many times to notify a family of their loss– telling parents, wives, and children that their loved one will not be coming home as expected. I have handed the folded American flag that moments before was on their loved one’s casket. One does not forget the faces. One does not forget the somber moments.
Most of all, one should never forget the men and women who served and ended up giving the last full measure of devotion–on the field of battle or feeling alone or helpless after the lingering effects of trauma–and the families they left behind.