For the first time in more than two decades, the nation will observe Memorial Day when the United States is not at war.

With this reprieve, now is a good time for Americans to consider the cost of war, and those who pay the ultimate price for safeguarding the nation and its people.

The holiday originated shortly after the Civil War, the deadliest conflict the nation has endured.

Since then, American service members have fought and died in the islands of the Caribbean, the forests and fields of Europe, and the jungles of the South Pacific and Southeast Asia.

Americans have fought battles in the extremes of Korea and faced perils in the deserts of North Africa, Iraq and Kuwait. They’ve braved the dangers of the Afghan highlands and the hardscrabble islands of the Aleutians.

Fierce battles felled U.S. aviators in the skies over Europe, the Pacific, Eastern Asia and the Middle East. Sailors clashed with foes in all the world’s oceans, sometimes only to be claimed by the deep.

It is difficult to encapsulate all the sacrifices that have been made by members of our armed forces. But we can honor their memory.

We can explain to our children why they see people put out the flag on Memorial Day and why so many flags adorn our cemeteries.

We can take time to honor our war dead in community commemorations.

And we can also call upon Congress to do right by our veterans.

As an example, Senate Bill 437, the Veterans Burn Pits Exposure Recognition Act, awaits action in the U.S. Senate. The bill would offer health care and disability benefits to veterans exposed to toxic burn pits used in the Middle East and Afghanistan during three wars the U.S. has fought dating back to 1990.

Legislation aimed at assisting active duty personnel is also in the mix. Suicide rates among those in uniform is alarmingly high, with 30,177 active duty personnel and veterans taking their own lives since 9/11. Senate Bill 2811, the Military Suicide Prevention in the 21st Century Act, aims to tackle this crisis, and Congress would do well to act.

We should be vigilant in caring for veterans who went to war for the nation’s causes but now have brought the war back home. Transition to civilian life isn’t always easy, especially for those with the physical and mental trauma of war.

The winds of war are still blowing, and the possibility of the U.S. being embroiled in combat looms. The time may come again when Americans will be called to defend our country, its interests and its allies.

For now, we can use peacetime to reflect. Put out a flag at your homes. Pay respects to the fallen. Honor those who have defended and will defend our country.


This content is published through a licensing agreement with Acquire Media using its NewsEdge technology.

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