As you finish making your plans for this long Memorial Day weekend, pack your sunscreen, and get ready for the barbecues, take some time to be thankful and reflect on what our veterans have done for our country and the lives that have been lost along the way. They have fought to found this country, to keep it from being torn apart, to maintain the rights we value, and to protect us in the face of horrific atrocities.

As we remember and honor those who have died, keep in mind that there are thousands of veterans across the country struggling to cope with normal, day-to-day tasks and living in our civilian world. These men and women have seen the worst sides of mankind and have been deeply affected.

You may be aware that the Department of Veterans Affairs in Phoenix has been in the media spotlight recently for creating fraudulent records and putting patients on wait lists when receiving immediate care would mean that they could live to see tomorrow. At least forty of these individuals have died in Phoenix, alone, presumably waiting for care through the VA. In a recent article from CNN, authors Scott Bronstein and Tom Cohen quote President Obama, who stated in 2007:

“When a veteran is denied care, we are all dishonored. It’s not enough to lay a wreath on Memorial Day or to pay tribute to our veterans in speeches.”

These deaths and the current state of the VA are more than dishonorable; they are a tragedy that needs an immediate solution. We need to support the men and women of our armed forces and demand that they be treated with the respect they deserve, the least of which is to ensure that they receive much needed care and treatment in a reasonable time. So on Monday, pay tribute to our deceased veterans, but reach out to those living around you: lend an ear, extend an invitation to that bbq, and do what you can to let them know how much they are valued. If you do choose to honor their memories with a celebration, please remember to do so safely and responsibly.