This Memorial Day, like every Memorial Day, most Americans find at least a little time to think beyond the charcoal-fired celebration of imminent summer that this holiday has become.
We think of heroes, sung and unsung, from our War of Independence two centuries ago through the world wars of the 20th Century -- Tom Brokaw's "Greatest Generation" -- and then Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. We take time to remind the kids, as they wait for their burgers, why they have the day off from school.
But here's the thing: We have plenty of heroes to memorialize. We don't need to rush the men and women who have fought in our 21st Century wars into untimely graves to join the legions of the fallen.
Which brings us to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
It is a horror.
First the years-long waits for benefits here in the Bay Area and across the country.
And now, over the past month, increasingly credible allegations that veterans have been dying as they wait for treatment at Phoenix and other VA hospitals while records are falsified to show that everything's going great.
What will it take for our country to make this right?
President Barack Obama uttered more platitudes last week. Blah, blah, blah. Yes, there's an investigation going on, yes we need to wait for it. But when reports of corruption are as rampant as this, you know something is wrong somewhere. And did we mention the delayed benefits?
Obama should fire VA Secretary Eric Shinseki, find somebody who can get a grip, and then find whatever money it takes to care for the people America has sent to war and who thankfully are still with us to celebrate our oh-so-imperfect but precious democracy.
Surely even members of this pathetically partisan Congress can get off their high horses of political ideology and get this done.
We entice young people to volunteer for the armed forces, risk their lives for poverty wages and then, when they need our help to overcome physical or psychological wounds of war, or to seek the medical care they were promised, we abandon them.
So here is our challenge to Americans who appreciate the solemnity of Memorial
Day and the value of human life.
Speak up. Put down that long-handled spatula, pick up the phone or the tablet, call or text a Congress member or a veterans' group -- leave a message and follow up on a business day -- demanding change and, this is important, asking how to help.
What's happening is just wrong. It insults not only the men and women waiting for care but also those who gave their lives, and whom we honor on Memorial Day.