This past week, in addition to observing Memorial Day, I had the privilege of hosting the 3rd District Veterans' Benefits Workshop in Jefferson City. The convergence of those two events, occurring the same week, really got me to thinking.
All of us have attended a Memorial Day event at one point in our lives and almost always there are living veterans who march in parades or participate in solemn events and sometimes reluctantly share stories about friends and comrades who were lost. Sometimes, the tears in their eyes as "Taps" slowly plays tell a story all on its own. My father was a World War II veteran and it wasn't until the end of his life that he finally shared with me only a few glimpses of his service.
In meeting veterans both at home, in Missouri, and during events like Honor Flight at the World War II Memorial in Washington, I have been profoundly moved to hear veterans quietly remembering those who fell by their side. These are private memories of men and women who gave their all for our country and it seems to me that those who survived this harrowing service have a unique appreciation for life.
In some ways, it reminds me of the closing scene of the movie "Saving Private Ryan" when Ryan, returning decades after the war to honor those who died to save him, asks his wife: "Tell me I've lived a good life. Tell me I'm a good man." In this moment, a veteran seeks validation that he had in fact honored those men who sacrificed themselves so that he may live. The thing about this incredibly moving scene is that over the years I've come to learn that there are many real life stories that mirror this fictional one.
For every veteran or veteran's family who has ever lost someone in defense of our nation, every day is Memorial Day and for every American, every day should be Veterans Day. We must do everything we can to help those we proudly call veteran. This past May 30 at the 3rd District Veterans' Benefits Workshop, my staff and I, along with representatives from government agencies and service organizations, provided veterans with free advice, guidance, and assistance for those who need it, for filing veterans' claims applications, completing necessary documents as well as understanding how the Department of Veterans' Affairs processes claims.
I had the honor of speaking with these veterans and I, along with my staff, expressed our gratitude for the opportunity to assist these heroes and help improve their quality of life because, as American veterans, they deserve our help and our gratitude.
So now, while we remember those who have fallen, let us also all work together to honor those who came home, had families, built businesses, contributed to our communities and who today pray for the safe return of their sons and daughters who followed in their footsteps in service to our country.
U.S. Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer, R-Mo., represents the 3rd District, which includes Jefferson City. His local office call be reached at 573-635-7232.