Memorial Day message: To honor the dead, remember the living

Advocates urge aid for returning vets

Montgomery County Common Pleas Judge Dennis Adkins asked listeners to remember that as they gathered at a cemetery that serves as the final resting place for many who served in all of America’s conflicts, from the Revolutionary War onward.

“Although some come back, and they may appear to escape the physical injuries, all are scarred by the horrors that they witnessed,” Adkins said.

It was that concern for veterans that led to the creation of the Dayton area’s first Veterans Treatment Court in December 2013. The court works with veterans who find themselves on the wrong side of the law, Adkins said, uniting veterans who need help with veterans who can help them.

Participation in the program — which Adkins started — is voluntary, but depends on regular court appearances and a treatment plan for each veteran in the system.

“Today, the modern solider is seeing multiple deployments,” Adkins said. “And we’re seeing a cascade of veterans returning from the wars, forcing us as judges, and also as mental health practitioners, to take a different look at the narrow diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury.”

Too many veterans today face depression, substance abuse, alcoholism, family breakdown and other challenges, Adkins said. Some 22 veterans a day take their own lives, he added.

Dr. James T. Hardy, chief of staff at Dayton Veterans Affairs Medical Center, agreed that all veterans deserve the care of a grateful nation.

“As a physician, I can tell you, when people come back from a war, not all the wounds are visible,” Hardy said. “In fact, in modern warfare, many of them are invisible.”

Though Memorial Day is set aside to remember those who have fallen, as a country, Americans have an obligation to help heal veterans’ physical and mental wounds, Adkins and Hardy said.

“The debt to the dead soldier can best be paid by the kindness in regard to the living American soldier,” Adkins said, quoting remarks by President Rutherford B. Hayes, when he dedicated the Soldiers Monument at the cemetery.

Memorial Day descends from a practice started in 1863, a practice set aside for what became “Decoration Day.”

“We honor our veterans,” U.S. Rep. Mike Turner, R-Dayton, said in his remarks. “We have a Memorial Day because we honor our values. We honor for generations now a sacrifice not just of individuals but of a nation dedicated to freedom.”

“For decades, Memorial Day meant that stores are being closed, there are parades in the streets,” Adkins said. “There were ceremonies at cemeteries. As years have gone by, those things have dwindled somewhat.”

To keep those traditions alive, a cemetery honor squad was inaugurated Monday, to ensure that all who are buried at Dayton National receive full military honors.

In recent years, only about 10 percent of those buried at the cemetery received a 21-gun salute, Adkins said. The squad was formed to correct that.

An initial goal was to form the squad with 20 members, Adkins said. So far, 26 volunteers have stepped forward.

Dayton National Cemetery has seen more than 50,000 burials since its founding in 1867. It sees some 1,000 interments a year and is the resting place for five Medal of Honor recipients.

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