Memorial Day is a time to remember fallen soldiers — members of the U.S. military who gave their lives in service to our nation. While many will get to enjoy a day off from work, it is also important to recall the meaning of the holiday and show appreciation for those who were lost, as well as the veterans who survived.
Yet too often, we have not paid our veterans the respect they deserve. A year ago, much was being made about the less-than-stellar service being provided to veterans at hospitals run by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Years of allegations came to light about hospital overcrowding, alarming wait times, falsified information and other abuses of the system.
A year later, while some headway has been made, it has not been close to enough. According to a review done by the Associated Press, VA statistics show that the number of patients facing long waits has not significantly declined, even after Congress gave the department an extra $16.3 billion last summer to shorten waits for care. According to the study, the number of vets waiting more than 30 or 60 days for non-emergency care has largely stayed flat. The number of medical appointments that take longer than 90 days to complete has actually gone up.
It is against this backdrop that we, the people, have a chance to recognize our veterans for their service. And this recognition isn’t accomplished through shopping at stores running Memorial Day sales or hosting a barbecue for your friends. No, Memorial Day is a day of reflection, of realizing that the oft-cited “freedom isn’t free” mantra is more real than ever, as the United States continues to have a military presence in hotspots across the globe. We have a moral obligation to treat our fighting forces better than the government is seemingly capable of achieving.
There are a number of ways to recall those we have lost and show our support locally. Royal Palm Beach will host its Memorial Day Observance on Monday, May 25 at 9 a.m. at the Veterans Park Amphitheater on Royal Palm Beach Blvd. A flag-raising ceremony will be followed by motivational presentations. Free refreshments and a live performance by the Royal Palm Beach Community Band will follow the ceremony.
The Village of Wellington will also be marking Memorial Day. The American Legion Chris Reyka Memorial Wellington Post 390 will join the Village of Wellington to host a Memorial Day Parade & Ceremony on Monday, May 25 beginning at 8:15 a.m. at the Wellington Municipal Complex with a parade proceeding to the Wellington Veterans Memorial at the corner of Forest Hill and South Shore boulevards, followed by the ceremony at 8:30 a.m.
As an added bonus, on Saturday, May 30, is the next Southeast Florida Honor Flight mission, where veterans are flown free to Washington, D.C., for a visit with time to reflect at their memorial. Top priority is given to World War II veterans and veterans who are terminally ill. Their journey to Washington, D.C., includes bus transportation, meals, T-shirts and any other amenities required to travel comfortably. Every trip is escorted by a team of well-trained volunteers and guardians, who personally accompany this elite group of visitors on the aircraft and to their memorial. The volunteers and guardians pay their own way, ensuring that 100 percent of the proceeds go to the veterans. To track when the veterans are scheduled to return to Palm Beach International Airport that evening — and to welcome them home — visit www.facebook.com/honorflight or www.honorflightsefl.org.