As an Iraq War Veteran and local resident of Southeast Los Angeles, community activism is important. Now that all the fireworks are over and the barbecues have been put away till the next holiday, we should really reflect on the importance of the 4th. Looking back in history we see that the job of forming these great United States fell not just on the founding fathers, but to the idealists, the philosophers, the common person. One such person was Thomas Paine, a tailor by trade and writer by hobby. Thomas Paine was the author of many books, in particular two very important revolutionary writings, Common Sense and American Crisis.
Thomas embodied what a single individual, what we call an activist today, can to do to spur the feelings, frustrations, and thoughts of the citizens at the time of the revolutionary war. At a time of great uncertainty and while the founding fathers were arguing the Declaration of Independence, debating whether or not to break away from Great Britain, Thomas Paine reminded his elected representatives that to not fight would be to give up on the dream of freedom. He wrote, in so many eloquent words persuading the founding fathers and the citizens of the time that change needed to happen now, by writing this:
"Society in every state is a blessing, but government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil; in its worst state an intolerable one; for when we suffer or are exposed to the same miseries by a government, which we might expect in a country without government, our calamity is heightened by reflecting that we furnish the means by which we suffer." - Common Sense, January 10, 1776
This past Sunday, Illinois Congressman Joe Walsh, who never served a day in the military, shamelessly questioned the heroism of his Congressional opponent, Illinois Army National Guard veteran and double amputee, Major Tammy Duckworth.
Using Senator John McCain as his foil to demean Duckworth, Walsh smeared Duckworth’s service and undermined her sacrifice. Americans nationwide, across ideology and political party, were disgusted by Walsh’s comments in the video.
I, too, was disgusted. I’ve long admired Tammy Duckworth. I’ve admired her since first learning her story. I even wrote about her in 2006 on the heels of her first Illinois Congressional campaign and subsequent defeat by Republican Peter Roskam – another non-veteran.
The Army released suicide data today for the month of May. During May, among active-duty soldiers, there were 16 potential suicides: four have been confirmed as suicides and 12 remain under investigation. For April, the Army reported 14 potential suicides among active-duty soldiers. Since the release of that report, one case has been added for a total of 15 potential suicides: four have been confirmed as suicides and 11 remain under investigation. For 2012, there have been 78 potential active-duty suicides: 42 have been confirmed as suicides and 36 remain under investigation. Updated active-duty suicide numbers for 2011: 165 (confirmed as suicides and no cases remain under investigation).
During May, among reserve component soldiers who were not on active duty, there were nine potential suicides (two Army National Guard and seven Army Reserve): two have been confirmed as suicides and seven remain under investigation. For April, among that same group, the Army reported 13 potential suicides. Since the release of that report, three cases have been added for a total of 16 potential suicides (seven Army National Guard and nine Army Reserve): 11 have been confirmed as suicides and five remain under investigation. For 2012, there have been 46 potential not on active-duty suicides (26 Army National Guard and 20 Army Reserve): 33 have been confirmed as suicides and 13 remain under investigation. Not on active-duty suicide numbers for 2011: 118 (82 Army National Guard and 36 Army Reserve) confirmed as suicides and no cases remain under investigation.
Memorial Day is usually associated with the beginning of summer, trips to the lake for boating, and fishing, visits to the neighborhood park for softball, and barbecues, and special sales at the nearby used auto car mall.
Far too often we forget the real significance of Memorial Day, and while time with family and community is important, we must remind ourselves of the Holiday's true meaning. For our veterans and military families, Memorial Day does not occur once a year-for some, we will spend the rest of our lives remembering those who gave their lives to a cause greater than ourselves.
Our community has families that have suffered a loss of a parent, or child, and veterans struggling with ‘survivor's guilt' a condition caused by post traumatic stress. Memorial Day is meant to honor the memory and commitment our men and women made in defense of our American values. We honor their memory by strengthening our communities and families, because in the end, our community and families are what our fallen men and women gave their lives to protect.