Memorial Day gets me a little choked up and this year is affecting me more than usual.
In today’s paper, we printed the names of veterans from Westfield who died this past year and as I read the names of veterans we lost during the pandemic – many because of the terrible tragedy at the Soldiers’ Home at Holyoke – I teared up. Even more than I usually do.
The veterans who died because of the negligence of those in charge at the Home, well, I just can’t imagine it. Unfortunately, I can imagine how those families felt not knowing the condition of their loved one, not knowing day-to-day what was going on with their health and their care. Not being able to speak to their loved one or receive any regular communication from the facility.
From personal experience and the experience several of my friends had this past year, there was terrible communication from hospitals and care facilities. I completely understand that they were understaffed and COVID took its toll — running rampant not only through residents and patients of facilities, but staff as well – but it has been, in a word, awful.
But the horrible Home tragedy was by far the worst. Residents were moved into large rooms together, some were eventually moved to another facility and all the while families were left in the dark.
These men and women veterans put themselves in harm’s way to keep us safe, and years later we were not able to keep them safe.
That is the tragedy.
That is what we must learn from and make sure that our veterans are taken care of. There are too many veterans who are sick, who are homeless and who are hungry. And many are too proud to ask for help, so we must be diligent and check up on them and do what we can – bring over a meal, invite them to dinner, offer a ride to the doctor – it’s those simple things that citizens can do for veterans they know. For those in positions to do more and make change – and are already doing this following the death of 77 veterans at the Soldiers’ Home – please keep pushing forward. Thank you for all you are doing to help those who have done so much for us.
This year, we can celebrate together. This is the first holiday without restrictions due to COVID-19 in more than a year. Vaccinated people can go without a mask and gather in groups. Many people can resume their traditional Memorial Day celebrations which herald the summer season. But please, when you are at your cookouts and able to hug those fully vaccinated family members you have not seen in a while, please also remember to thank a veteran. If you and your family and friends can gather without a mask, take a moment of silence to respect those who gave their all for us, and their families who could not give them one last hug.
Thank you to all veterans and all those currently serving.