"America's Forum" host J.D. Hayworth took a pause on Friday from delivering the news on Newsmax TV to talk about Memorial Day.
As we head into the long holiday weekend, eager to get summer started, Hayworth considered the deeper meaning of our national salute to fallen warriors — and the shadow cast by a growing scandal of deficient medical care for returning veterans.
"So many of us take a look at Memorial Day and, mentally, we go, 'Ah! The start of summer. It's here right now,' " said Hayworth. "But we know that there is much more to look at."
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Hayworth recalled how Memorial Day military ceremonies took on a special significance for him when he served in the House of Representatives.
"What I really focused on, and came to appreciate during my days in the Congress of the United States, was the fact that in my district in Arizona, we had one of the national cemeteries," Hayworth said. "So, Memorial Day would become this day where the families of the fallen would assemble, and where there would be a ceremony that easily exceeded two hours in length.
"But no one complained," he said, "because they understood the nature of the sacrifice. Because the families had lived that sacrifice: the Gold Star mothers, reflecting on the loss of their sons in battle; those who had served alongside, reflecting on the men with whom they served, and women as well, going into harm's way now.
"The whole notion of sacrifice is so important to Memorial Day," said Hayworth, adding, "I continue to marvel at the notion of extraordinary things being done by seemingly ordinary people."
He gave the example of former Army Sgt. Kyle J. White
, an Afghanistan veteran who received the Medal of Honor
on May 13 for rescuing a badly wounded fellow soldier in a November 2007 firefight.
"If you go back, and you look at our most recent Medal of Honor recipient — someone called from a rural area suddenly thrust into battle and performing with great valor — is something extraordinarily reassuring," said Hayworth. "And yet, there's this paradox."
Memorial Day, he noted, coincides with so many summer cues — warming weather, school winding down, baseball in full swing — it's possible to lose sight of its founding purpose. But its enduring rituals and observances help bring Americans back to a place of reflection.
"The flag of the United States is first raised to the top of the staff in the morning and then solemnly lowered to half-staff, where it flies until noon in remembrance of the more than 1 million people who have given what Lincoln called 'the last full measure of devotion.' "
The one shadow to fall across this Memorial Day, he said, is the burgeoning VA hospitals scandal.
"Many men and women in uniform putting their lives on the line for our nation have come back home only to be met with slow treatment, mistreatment, or no treatment from the government agency responsible for ensuring their healthcare," said Hayworth. "After weeks of silence, our commander-in-chief offered up his familiar rhetorical recipe of feigning disdain, promising punishment, and allowing the VA to investigate its own actions.
"That approach has failed to inspire confidence in the administration from either side of the political aisle."
"More importantly," Hayworth concluded, "it has failed the families of those who valiantly served their country only to die in veterans hospitals in the United States."
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