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Solidarity. Courage. Camaraderie. Strength. Bravery. Honor. Loss. Hope.For many new veterans, it’s difficult to put into words what Memorial Day signifies to the men and women we served alongside in Iraq and Afghanistan. For many of us, the wars – our wars - are still playing out in the deserts beyond Baghdad and the mountains overlooking Kabul. But every year, Memorial Day stands out in our community not as a holiday for barbecues and beach trips but as a day to honor, reflect and remember.
Since 9/11, over 2.2 million Americans have served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Nearly 40,000 have been wounded. And 6,000 have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country, including 46 service members who gave their lives in April in one of the deadliest months since the decade-long war in Afghanistan began.
This Memorial Day, IAVA was proud to come together with The Case Foundation to honor the courage and sacrifice of our fallen brothers and sisters. From Boston to Seattle to Houston, we gathered thousands of Americans in 15 cities nationwide to pause in a moment of silence, to remember their legacies and to rededicate ourselves to supporting the families they have left behind.
At the Presidio overlooking the Pacific and Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery outside Chicago, we gathered to share the stories of Lt. Mark Daily, Cpl. Brian Chevalier and countless brothers and sisters in arms who never made it home. At Arlington National Cemetery, we joined the President, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Admiral Mike Mullen in laying a wreath in their honor at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. We stood guard at Section 60, the final resting place of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, to grieve and reflect with their families. And at TAPS Good Grief Camp we came together to mentor and support their children – their living legacies.
Do you have images to share from Memorial Day remembrances in your local community? Click here to tag them in IAVA’s album on Flickr.
All across the country, this Memorial Day was a moving time to pay tribute and honor all of our brothers and sisters who gave their lives in defense of our nation. But it was also a time to rally around fellow service members and military families who continue to serve our country. Over 150,000 troops are still deployed on the frontlines and as they transition home many are facing significant challenges from navigating GI Bill benefits, getting care for mental health injuries or finding jobs to support their families.
This past weekend, while millions of Americans kicked off summer at the beach, over 200,000 new veterans were unemployed and struggling to find jobs. IAVA is committed to rallying the country and ensuring no veteran comes home from these wars to an unemployment check. As attention shifts from the wars, there is no greater way to honor the legacy of our fallen every day of the year than to invest in the men and women who served alongside them. To get involved with IAVA’s Combat to Career campaign or to join us at future events in your area, sign up to become an IAVA Member Veteran or Supporter today.
Guest blogger Jason Hansman is an Iraq veteran and the Online Community Manager for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (www.IAVA.org). IAVA is the country’s first and largest nonprofit, nonpartisan organization for veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and has more than 200,000 Member Veterans and civilian supporters nationwide.