Thursday, May 26, 2016

Memorial Day 2016

I’ve written a Memorial Day message each year over the past decade – that is, each year since I founded The Free State Foundation. As regular readers know, in our day-to-day world, FSF focuses primarily on communications and Internet law and policy, high tech policy, and intellectual property issues.

As important as those law and policy issues may be, and as passionately as I may feel about advocating principled free market, property rights-protective, and rule of law-oriented positions regarding them, I am never under any illusions that they are more important than certain other transcendent ideas and ideals. Hence my annual Memorial Day messages – and almost always Independence Day and Thanksgiving Day ones too.

Of course, the meaning of Memorial Day may be proclaimed simply, but it is so profound that words hardly do it justice – to honor those men and women in our armed services who paid the ultimate price defending our country and protecting our freedom. In past years, I’ve tried in different ways, through various stories, historical anecdotes, biographies, and personal reflections, to impart meaning to Memorial Day. Or stated differently, I’ve tried to avoid repeating myself, even though the true meaning of Memorial Day is immutable.

This year’s message will be different still – and very personal. But, hopefully, in the end, it will be deemed consistent with the spirit of Memorial Day and those I wish to honor and respect.

Were you to peruse the past decade’s messages, you would see that, at various times, I have urged that, aside from honoring those who gave their lives, Memorial Day also should be a time for providing succor to servicemen and servicewomen who suffered the wounds of war, often grievous wounds. Indeed, in suggested remarks for this Memorial Day, the Disabled Veterans of America organization asks that care be provided for “the wounded brothers and sisters” of those not returning home.

As some, but not many, readers know, on April 24, my daughter, Brooke Taylor, suffered a grievous injury – a serious traumatic brain injury – in an auto accident. Brooke faces a long, arduous rehabilitation process, with many significant challenges ahead. But she is a strong and determined woman, a loving wife, mother, and daughter, with a huge heart. And she is now recovering bit by bit every day. For this, we are surely most grateful – and hopeful for an eventual full recovery.

But this is not about Brooke’s injury – except in this one singular respect. After spending a lot of time since April 24 in the hospital – Brooke was in the ICU for 18 long days and is now in the acute care wing – I am more sensitive than ever to the need for medical care that meets the highest standards, especially for those with grievous injuries, and especially for our servicemen and women. As a former U.S. Army Reserve medic, I think I was sensitive to this need before. But I have no shame in confessing that when the need is for someone as close as my daughter, then all sensitivity is heightened.

Like many others, I was troubled when I read the recent controversial statement by Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald comparing wait times at VA hospitals and clinics to those at Disneyland. At best, what an inapt, and inept, way to try to explain away the continuing problems with the VA system! While not apologizing for his comment, Secretary McDonald did acknowledge that veterans are still waiting too long to receive care. And he said: “Nothing drives me crazy more than our inability to provide timely care for them.”

I don’t want to make this political and won’t. I’m not calling for Secretary McDonald’s resignation, or for any other action – other than this: The American people should demand that the VA system that serves our veterans with its hospitals and clinics be fixed.

Enough time has passed. No more comparing VA wait times with Disneyland wait lines. No more U.S. government officials compelled to say of our veterans: “Nothing drives me crazy more than our inability to provide timely care for them.”

So, of course, enjoy the hot dogs, the beach, the sales this holiday weekend. But please also don’t forget about the true meaning of Memorial Day – to honor those servicemen and servicewomen who paid the ultimate price and to provide succor and care to those wounded while serving our country.

PS – My past Memorial Day messages are here: 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007