Photos: Memorial Day 2022

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A veteran stands in front of “Forgotten Soldiers.” // Photo by Jim Nimmo

This weekend marks the annual start of summer, by vacation standards. Memorial Day is the last Monday in May, granting us a long lake weekend during which a few of us will remember to thank the old vet drinking beer next to us for their service. It’s an American tradition, but we often give it less thought than our weekend packing list for the lake.

Memorial Day was an unofficial holiday for years following the Civil War to honor individuals who died in service to their country. It became a federal holiday in 1971, and over the years it became a ritual to visit the graves of soldiers, leaving flowers and flags in remembrance.

The WWI Museum is hosting a scale replica of the Vietnam Wall to celebrate Memorial Day, which lists the names of the 58,318 Americans who died in Vietnam. The exhibit will be open 24 hours a day except during the Celebration at the Station concert on Sunday night. There are resources to help you locate the names of anyone who appears on the wall.

Directly in front of the museum’s entrance is a collection of 140 American flags. They represent the “Forgotten Soldiers,” who are personnel lost to suicide. The Department of Veterans Affairs estimate that a service member commits suicide once every 72 minutes—20 deaths per day.

We spoke with  Brandonn Mixon, who is an Afghanistan veteran and co-founder of the local veterans charity, Veterans Community Project (VCP). The Kansas City nonprofit startup builds tiny houses as transitional living for houseless vets and has currently spread to four other cities.

When asked what we can do to show appreciation to those who chose to serve in the military, Mixon’s answer boiled down to one thing—participate. Getting involved is the biggest thank you. It can be as simple as shopping at a thrift store that donates to veteran organizations or as complicated as starting an office fundraiser. 

The veterans community has a high percentage of obstacles—everything from houselessness, to drug and alcohol addiction, to a range of PTSD symptoms. Mixon beleives it’s important to not hide these problems from yourself or from your family. VCP partners with the community to address the needs of our local veterans, and all of those partners need volunteers as well.

Mixon made it very clear that a well-meaning, “Thank you for your service,” doesn’t really to anything for vets. It’s lip service and nothing more unless you put actions to your words. Use this holiday not just to mark the beginning of summer but make a promise to get involved and take action to help someone who served. 

Veterans or those who know a veteran in crisis can call THE VETERANS CRISIS LINE for confidential support 24 hours a day/365 days per year at 1-800-273-8255 or text 838255.

Categories: Culture