As we commemorate Memorial Day this year, it is fitting to remember our fallen, their families and their comrades-in-arms. Joining the ranks of previous generations of Americans who gave the last full measure of devotion are the 6,400 Americans who have fallen in Iraq and Afghanistan. Unique among our nation’s long conflicts, this generation’s service in war has been completely voluntary. Sent into harm’s way in the name of us all, these brave young Americans, and the hundreds of thousands of servicemen and women who served alongside them, have defeated tyrants, captured terrorists and fought against extremists seeking to impose their hateful designs on innocent populations. Our sons, our daughters, our sisters and brothers — these heroes number among the best of a generation. Those who answered the call understood that freedom and security for all Americans depends on the willingness of the few to defend the interests of the many.
This Memorial Day, while the nation remembers the sacrifices of current and past generations, it is important to commit to keeping faith with our veterans long after their stories have disappeared from the headlines. The severe physical, mental and emotional injuries of our servicemen and women present a long-term care challenge that we need to prepare ourselves for. Many of our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines with severe physical wounds will require daily care for the next 50 or 60 years. The long-term effects of traumatic brain injury and the effects of post-traumatic stress are not well-understood, and may be just as long-lasting.
On this Memorial Day, I ask that we all do what we can to ensure the long-term care of our severely injured. The Department of Veteran’s Affairs has been asked to step up to an enormous challenge in meeting the needs of our wounded warriors, and they have done great things. We all need to carry the good works and good intentions of the present into the future. If I know these men and women like I believe I do, many will be too proud to ask for help. They will struggle in silence to make ends meet. Ensuring these critically injured warriors and their families lead the most productive, integrated lives possible is our moral imperative.
There are many ways, public and private, that we can help. Americans in every walk of life, every trade, every occupation can help by hiring veterans, providing job hunting assistance, mentoring and supporting the many hard-working nonprofit organizations that assist our veterans and our families. We can all look out for and take care of the families of our fallen — families who struggle every day to put their lives back together. It is our opportunity. It is our obligation. It is our honor.
Amos is the commandant of the Marine Corps.