When I was a kid, Memorial Day marked the end of the school year and the beginning of the summer season.
It also was the day that my grandmother, a mother of three World War II veterans, took armloads of flowers to the cemetery in honor of those who gave their lives to protect our freedom.
Next year will be the 70th anniversary of D-Day, June 6, 1944. My dad and his two brothers were among those who landed at Normandy and lived to tell about it.
I have a box of my father's letters to my grandparents during his wartime service. The U.S. Army heavily censored the mail, so it is unclear where he was or exactly what he was doing. But because of the date stamp, I know which letter was mailed May 30, 1944, a week before D-Day.
His correspondence is lighthearted and designed to persuade his mother that everything was OK. He wrote my grandmother:
Everything is still fine over here. Nothing to worry about. I'm sure it won't be long until we'll all be home. Everybody take it easy, and Mom, don't lose any sleep over me. I'm doing well.
Knowing that my father's experiences in that war would haunt him until his death at age 60 -- in part from service-related ailments and long before he was able to enjoy any of his retirement planning -- made it particularly gratifying to me that last week, Congress passed the Stolen Valor Act, which makes it a crime to lie in order to receive veterans retirement or health care benefits. At a time when it seems like our congressional leadership doesn't agree on much, only three of the 535 members of Congress voted in opposition.
Veterans benefits are already stretched too thin, and our veterans shouldn't have to compete with those who lie to get what they don't deserve. This law should help.