These were 6,808 fathers, sisters and sons.
Many more suffered debilitating injuries — mental and physical.
They served our country, fighting for each other and to uphold our firmly held national principle of liberty. Liberty is precious and worth fighting for.
So, bring out your flags and dust off those old family albums this Memorial Day weekend. Plant flowers around gravestones and tell stories about Aunt Helen or Grandpa Jim.
But this year, you, our readers, could take one extra step in honoring our servicemen and women. Take one hour out of your long holiday weekend to write your congressional representatives and President Obama to demand better treatment of our veterans. Demand that they make the care of our veterans a priority, because clearly it has not been.
In recent weeks, we have once again been alerted to the failings of the Veterans Administration in providing timely health care to our heroes. These heroes have been made false promises by our government.
This time, veterans died while waiting for that promised care. In several states, phony appointment records — to make it appear like veterans were getting care in a reasonable timeframe — are to blame.
Retired Gen. Eric Shinseki, secretary of Veterans Affairs, said the recent “adverse” incidents made him “mad as hell.”
We should all be mad as hell.
This isn’t the first time the VA has failed this nation’s veterans. Obama himself in 2007 said that failed VA care was unacceptable and that issues revealed at the Walter Reed Medical Center served as a “wake-up call.”
Yet, seven years have gone by and still veterans are waiting, and dying, for health care. At what point, exactly, is our government going to get a move on in fixing this serious problem?
U.S. Rep. Bill Huizenga, R-Zeeland, recently expressed outrage of the idea of employees at the VA "cooking the books" after voting for HR 4031, which would add some small measure of accountability in the VA. "While this bill is not a cure all," he noted, "it is a long-overdue step in the right direction."
We certainly hope this bill gets the nod of approval. A cure-all, however, would be preferred.
Puffed up on empty promises and pretty prose about how our heroes deserve better, many politicians will likely redirect their spin-doctoring to other topics of the day. They will again forget all about our veterans — until the next scandal or election, of course.
Our veterans deserve an honorable level of health care treatment without months-long waits. This federal agency needs improved staffing, adequate funding and accountability. A complete overhaul — top to bottom — wouldn’t be out of line.
We have a duty to stand up for our veterans and demand immediate and long-term improvements. They fought for us, and now it’s our turn to fight for them.
CLICK HERE to read the CNN special report on the most recent incident.
Our Views reflects the majority opinion of the members of the Grand Haven Tribune editorial board: Kevin Hook, Cheryl Welch, Matt DeYoung, Alex Doty and Fred VandenBrand. What do you think? E-mail us a letter to the editor to firstname.lastname@example.org or log-in to our website and leave a comment below.