Young reporters used to be confused about the meaning of Memorial Day.  I guess parents and schools aren’t very clear with distinctions.

I knew the woman’s family. She had suffered a head injury and her legs were badly scarred

We honor those who came home alive with Veterans Day.  We honor those who came home in bags with Memorial Day.

If I could be king for a day we would also be celebrating a Wounded Warrior day.  I’ve been to many Veterans Day celebrations and for the most part the scars aren’t visible.  It’s not to say they don’t exist but most people I’ve known who served don’t spend much time talking about wounds.  A young friend is a grandson of a former middleweight boxing champion.  The young man has a disability related to his service in the Marine Corps.  He preferred I never mention it on-air.  He went on with his life when he came home and has been very successful.

Today I’m wearing an Army Medical Corps hat.  It’s not an attempt for stolen valor.  Several years ago, before the historic campus at Walter Reed Army Medical Center closed, a commander gave it to me.  I was with a group putting on a barbecue for the recovering wounded.  The hat reminds me of the great men and women I met on a sunny summer day.  Some of the people I met clearly were going to spend years recuperating and it was apparent some would always need medical care.  During my visit a member of the staff pointed to a young woman at a picnic table and suggested I spend some time hearing her story.  As it turns out I knew the woman’s family.  She had suffered a head injury and her legs were badly scarred.  We sat down and discovered she was a delightful young lady.

She had competed in the Wounded Warrior Games and been awarded medals in several competitions.  She owned a beach condo not far from where I lived but she no longer found much time for the beach.  There was a child like innocence about her.  I attribute the innocence to the head wound she suffered.  And she reminded me of my own daughter.  She was, however, sad about something very special.  Some of the wounded had been taken by bus for a tour of the Smithsonian.  She had lost her medals on the bus.

The following Monday I mentioned her story on my radio program.  There was an outpouring from members of the audience.  They were willing to cover the costs of replacing her honors.  We were readying a fund for the cause when we got a message.  A Good Samaritan later riding the D.C. bus system had found the medals and the ribbons and medallions were returned.

Before we left Walter Reed I looked up a hillside and saw a woman pushing a man in a chair.  His head was covered in a protective helmet.  He wore thick glasses to compensate for the loss of vision.  He said nothing and just watched the festivities.  Then the woman, likely his wife, got down on her knees and stroked his hands.  Nearly a decade has passed and I can still see it as if it all happened yesterday.

These men and women are generally out of sight.  They shouldn’t be out of mind.  We should remember them every day but could start by honoring them once each year.  How many people actually get Labor Day off?  The workers labor and management takes a long weekend.  Scrap any notion it’s about workers.  Instead let’s honor the wounded in September.

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