The following is a Memorial Day message from Jeff Lyons, Chairman of the Libertarian Association of Massachusetts, and a US Navy Veteran:
Last year, I participated in the #MarchOfTheDeadVeterans organized by Iraq War Veteran Adam Kokesh (USMC) with dozens of other veterans attending the Libertarian National Convention to raise awareness for Veteran’s issues and the tragedy of this preventable loss of life.
The March was to symbolize the devastating consequences that our military heroes face in service to their country, even after returning home from war. Our veterans sit in purgatory waiting for treatment from our broken Veterans Affairs Healthcare system. For many, the long wait is a death sentence. Veterans are only 3% of the population, but more than twice as likely than a civilian to take their own life as twenty-two veterans commit suicide every day.
Some veterans have chosen to take their lives in protest by commiting suicide outside the VA and other government buildings. Such was the case of John Watts, a man who set himself on fire on the steps of the Georgia State Capitol. He survived his self-immolation only to succumb to those wounds a few painful days later. Watch this press conference and hear the fireworks strapped to his chest explode off screen.
Jon B. Watts represents John Watts, who passed the next day; Jeff Lyons in Navy Dress Blues; Photo by Ford Fischer; July 1st, 2018.
I was enlisted in the United States Navy for over 8 years because I believe that American values of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are worth defending and worth dying for. I deployed with a Helicopter Search and Rescue Squadron onboard USS Ronald Reagan and later I served as a Navy Recruiter. Through these experiences, I became intimately familiar with the reasons why service-members choose to serve in the U.S. Military and what it means to serve. It all boils down to one reason: we believe in fighting for Liberty. We believe that American is the greatest country on Earth because of the unique liberties that we have, we want to protect it, and we are willing to die to preserve it. That’s the fundamental reason for everything we do in the service.
Memorial Day is a day, not for Veterans like myself, but for the men and women who gave their lives in the line of duty in service to our country. While we are enjoying this long weekend barbecuing with family members and counting down the days until summer comes, we will be reminded of those we have lost and those who gave their lives because they believed in the Freedoms and Opportunities that this country has provided for its people. To make this ultimate sacrifice in the service of others is one of the greatest honors I can imagine.
Images that come to mind when we think about Memorial Day often come from the American Revolution, the Civil War, or World War II, where men were truly fighting for freedom against tyranny, slavery, and genocide. In an hour of intense darkness, American Soldiers fought - and won - on behalf of Independence, Freedom, and Democracy. This Memorial Day, I would like you to think about the Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, and Airmen that we have lost in the 21st century. I would like you to think about what we ask our military servicemembers to lay down their lives for now.
I would like you to think about the servicemembers who will perish in the future, as our leaders in government continue to meddle in the affairs of other countries instead of handling their responsibilities to the American people here at home. I would like you to think about the trillions of dollars that our country has spent on foreign entanglements that have brought nothing but death and destruction, while accelerating the increase to our national debt, and instead of investing those trillions in a better future for our children, we send those children off to fight. They don’t always come back. The ones who do, will spend the rest of their lives dealing with the consequences.
I would like you to think about those servicemembers who have not yet given their lives and who can still be saved. The Government mis-managed Department of Veterans Affairs is overwhelmed by two decades of returning veterans, and our veterans are not awarded the privilege of seeking better or faster care outside their networks. Federal Prohibition of Cannibus prevents VA Doctors and their Veteran Patients from utilizing this safe, effective and preferable treatment option for pain management, depression, anxiety, and other symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, thanks to the failed War on Drugs. There are simple solutions to these problems if only our politicians would act on behalf of our Veterans, instead of looking for another war to fight.
Photograph: Eduardo Muñoz/Reuters
Today, Vice President Mike Pence promised the graduating class of Army West Point “Some of you will join the fight against radical Islamic terrorists in Afghanistan and Iraq” foreshadowing a continuance of nearly 20 years of intense warfare. “It is a virtual certainty that you will fight on a battlefield for America at some point in your life,” Pence said. “You will lead soldiers in combat. It will happen. Some of you may even be called upon to serve in this hemisphere.”
This Memorial Day, when you see a living servicemember, instead of thanking them for their service, I would like you to think on all these things and ask yourself, are we asking them to lay down their lives for the right reasons? The Men and Women who defend our country depend on all of us as citizens to get the answer to that question right. And as always, please think of those servicemembers we have already lost, in combat and to the wounds that followed them home, the 22 veteran suicides a day.
This Memorial Day, I will be thinking of all the young people that I helped to enlist in the armed forces, and I will also be thinking about what it is that I ask them to lay down their lives for. I am a member of the Libertarian Party because it is the only political party that is unapologetically Anti-War, Anti-Foreign Intervention, Anti-Regime Change, and fully against sending the youth to fight and die in conflicts that don't involve protecting our rights and liberties here at home.