COVID-19 has silenced our traditional July 4th fireworks. This silence reminds us of President Harry S. Truman’s words which greet visitors to the American cemetery in Normandy, France.
Seventy-six years ago, 73,000 American troops stormed Normandy; 6,603 young Americans would not survive the day.
The 2020 anniversary of D-Day had a new sadness this year. The American cemetery is a
lonely place 364 days a year. In 2020, it will be lonely 365 days. The pandemic eliminated any memorial of these heroes who offered their all, asked for nothing.
As our D-Day veterans dwindle from age, have we forgotten the sacrifices of our veterans? Perhaps the silencing of July 4th fireworks is appropriate given the tragedy which occurred in our state operated veterans homes.
The COVID-19 pandemic has been virulent among older people and our veteran community is not an exception. That story is beyond sad and compelling. The state reports 658 elderly and frail veterans had been living in state operated veterans homes.
Of these World War II, Korean War, Vietnam and Global War on Terror veterans, there have been 391 COVID positive cases. Yes, 60% are COVID positive. Worse, we have experienced 142 COVID deaths in these facilities. A mortality rate of 21.6% and growing.
Allow us to provide some perspective on the magnitude of a 21.6% mortality rate in these state-run veterans homes. The Bataan Death march had an American serviceman mortality rate of 1.3%.
The Normandy D-Day invasion had a first day mortality rate of 9%. It takes the mortality rate of the entire Iwo Jima conflict, the bloodiest battle in Marine Corps history, to have a similar mortality rate at 22%.
These 142 brave souls died alone denied their family’s presence in their final moments. These veterans stepped up to serve their country and have been sacrificed at a pace not seen since Iwo Jima.
They are veterans who have been promised care in return for their service and for whatever reason, the state did not fulfill its obligation to them.
The USNS Comfort was only miles away and empty with 1,000 beds while they were dying by the day. Yet the state left these veterans behind in their COVID-infested buildings.
These veterans, now frail and dependent upon the good will of the country they served valiantly, are the people with the highest COVID-19 mortality rate.
On President Truman’s desk was a sign, “The buck stops here.” We want to know where the buck stops now.
Who is responsible for this tragedy? Who will assure us the remaining survivors of this malaise will be cared for properly, and with the dignity and respect they so richly deserve?
We humbly beseech you to contact your state representatives and demand they Save Our Soldiers (Sailors) … SOS.
As Hazlet’s former Navy SEALs, we were inculcated to never leave a man behind. Join us, VFW Post 4303 and its 150 members, to help protect those veterans who can no longer protect themselves.
Township Committeeman Skip McKay (SEAL)
Terra Flynn (SEAL)
Capt. Peter Wikul (SEAL) “Bullfrog 13”
John Conti, Post Commander