Today, across Ashtabula County and the entire country, people will gather to honor the greatest sacrifice a veteran can make for their country — to lay down their life in service of the nation. 

While the three-day weekend is traditionally the official beginning of summer and is filled with fun and frivolity, on Memorial Day itself we hope everyone reflects on why we recognize this holiday. Memorial Day is meant to be a solemn remembrance of the brave soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines who are owed a significant debt. We must honor the sacrifices of those true Americans, remember the Gold Star families and the promise to uphold the values they gave their lives for.

On an individual level, that means offering thanks and a kind word to any service members or families who have lost someone in the service. We hope it also means taking a small amount of time today to attend one of the many touching Memorial Day services offered throughout Ashtabula County.

But there are large steps we can take as a nation. We must ensure our leaders will only put the lives of the men and women serving America in jeopardy if absolutely necessary. This Memorial Day, rhetoric and tensions with Iran are being ratcheted up and the White House is sending more troops to the Middle East. Tough talk is also increasing with North Korea after the United States seized one of its cargo ships earlier this month. Too many politicians on both sides of aisle can be too quick to consider sending men and women into harm’s way, especially because there are not enough veterans serving in our civilian government.

As Winston Churchill so poignantly said: “Never, never, never believe any war will be smooth and easy, or that anyone who embarks on the strange voyage can measure the tides and hurricanes he will encounter.

“The statesman who yields to war fever must realize that once the signal is given he is no longer the master of policy but the slave of unforeseeable and uncontrollable events. …

“Always remember, however sure you are that you could easily win, there would not be a war if the other man did not think that he also had a chance.”

The country also has an obligation to provide out returning. Yet on Thursday, five U.S. Senators sent a letter to the Department of Veterans Affairs in response to a Seattle TV station’s report that, despite a March 2018 law meant to expand access to mental health care for at-risk veterans, many were not notified of the change in their eligibility, staff provided incorrect information to veterans and some veterans were even turned away and denied services they were entitled to. 

There are so many things we can do, on both a micro- and macro-level to help and honor our nation’s war dead, our Gold Star families and our veterans. But that requires thinking about their sacrifice — and what they deserve and are rightly owed — beyond Memorial Day and Veterans Day. It’s a challenge we can all do better by.

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