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Remembering  Memorial Days

Many years ago, Memorial Day weekend in Lisbon village started with families delivering flower pots with geraniums, begonias, petunias, green spikes and other favorite flowers to the graves at the cemetery on Saturday. It was a tradition that began back as Decoration Day in 1865 at the close of the deadliest war in United States history, the Civil War.

Members of the American Legion circulated candles to every home in the village that day. These candles were lit at 10 p.m. Sunday evening when the street lights and home lights were dimmed to darkness. Wagons and truck beds carried the members of the American Legion members slowly along the village streets as they sang. It was awe-inspiring, a shivering kind of anticipation as strains of singing grew stronger as the Legionnaires approached, then waned as they continued their journey wending through Lisbon. The only light was from the candles and the hearts of the families gathered together on porches and steps to listen, to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice in times of war. It was an event family shared.

By 8:30 the next morning, everyone was either at the American Legion where the parade formed: Boy Scout, Girl Scout, Campfire troops, service organizations, color guard, even kids with their bicycles decorated and air-filled balloons pushed into place against the spokes of the wheels as noisemakers. All along the parade route people gathered, falling in behind at the end to march to the cemetery where General Logan’s orders were read to the spectators.

For some this has always been an emotional and deeply heartfelt occasion given to appreciate the sacrifices of some for the many. The message: Never forget. Never forget the cost of protecting our freedoms. Never forget our obligations to support those who are willing to stand for all of us when we won’t or can’t stand with them in battle, battles that may haunt them for the rest of their lives.

Memorial Day is far more than a day for barbeque and baseball games. It is a day for remembering what war does, how precious peace truly is. The VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars) strives to “Honor the dead by helping the living,” by helping those who went to war and returned home ill-prepared to resume civilian life.

Common problems that veterans have to deal with include PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), anxiety, depression, substance use disorders and suicidal issues. Many, we are advised, suffer more than one health condition. Some were harassed, assaulted or sexually traumatized during their time in the military.

One in five veterans struggled with alcohol or other substance use issues, according to the Pew Research Center which surveyed the veterans. Four in 10 veterans had difficulties getting health care for themselves and their families. Six in 10 had trouble paying bills, all during the first few years after returning to civilian life. Veterans with PTSD were more likely to experience difficulties.

The Veteran’s Administration committed to finding veterans who are homeless or at risk of homelessness, getting veterans in touch with agencies that can help them with employment, health care and housing, as well as any other assistance they may need. A hand up, not a hand out. Everyone needs help sometimes.

The Pew survey reports that “most Americans look up to people who have served in the military…Veterans see themselves as more disciplined and patriotic than those who have not served in the military. Most Americans agree with this.”

As we commemorate the lives given for the good of all, reflect on those things you hold most dear and how different things could be without those willing to serve, to risk life and limb for their people, our people … our way of life. Sometimes it’s good to just count our blessings. Sometimes life seems impossible. You don’t have to go it alone.

Family Recovery Center helps families to find ways to navigate through these challenging times. For more information about the agency’s treatment and education programs, contact FRC at 964 N. Market St., Lisbon; phone, 330-424-1468, or email, info@familyrecovery.org. FRC is funded in part by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

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