This past Monday was Memorial Day, a day to celebrate those military members who have made “the ultimate sacrifice”. The History Channel hosts a video on the channel’s website called “Memorial Day” that delves into the history behind the holiday.

The inspiration behind the holiday was first sparked during the American Civil War, after approximately 600,000 soldiers, both union and confederates combined, died during combat. To commemorate those who had served in “America’s bloodiest chapter,” civilians and veterans decorated the headstones and graves of fallen soldiers. The video notes how “almost every community in every state suffered the loss of young men”.

Waterloo, New York, has officially crowned itself the birthplace of an early version of Memorial Day, which at the time was celebrated on May 5th of every year, beginning in 1866. Even then, shops and businesses would close so that civilians and veterans could turn their attention to fallen soldiers and take time out of the day to both visit and decorate their graves.

But then, John Logan, a war general, envisioned a national, singular ceremony that would honor the fallen rather than having smaller, individualized ceremonies hosted by small groups of individuals. He declared May 30th (beginning in 1868) as “Decoration Day,” which became a national holiday during the time in which everyone in both the North and South decorated the graves of deceased soldiers. Thousands of civilians, including widows and orphans, spent the entire day gathered at Arlington National Cemetery in order to commemorate those soldiers, “plac[ing] flowers and ribbons on the twenty-thousand graves of both Union and Confederate soldiers”.

Towards the end of the nineteenth century, “Decoration Day” was renamed Memorial Day, and in 1971, was moved to the fourth Monday of May so that government officials could receive a three-day weekend.

Today, America is facing a crisis when it comes to its military veterans. 22 veterans a day are committing suicide, mostly due to mental illness and subsequently the inability to cope with their grievous symptoms. In fact, the U.S. Department of Veterans’ Affairs reports that one in five combat veterans develops Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, either during or shortly after combat. The Mayo Clinic defines PTSD as having three main categories of symptoms: “re-experiencing symptoms,” “avoidance symptoms,” and “hyperarousal symptoms”. These categories can be simplified to describe symptoms of flashbacks and nightmares, feeling of guilt and depression, and insomnia, respectively. Those who suffer from PTSD should seek medical attention as soon as possible before symptoms worsen and consume a veteran’s entire life.

However, veterans who suffer from PTSD are strongly discouraged from seeking medical attention by ways of the VA. Reports released by CBS News in 2013 revealed that medical professionals associated with the VA prescribed 259% more narcotics than in 2002, and that individualized therapy had fallen by the wayside. A medical practitioner associated with the VA anonymously admitted to CBS News in a TV interview that “it is easier to write a prescription for narcotics and to just move along and get to the next patient” so that more veterans would be “treated”. This news outbreak, coupled with the 2014 VA scandal, hopefully cause ailing veterans to consult non-associated medical facilities to rehabilitate their physical and mental health.

One of those organizations is Operation: I.V, a 501(c)3 non-profit founded in 2012 that helps combat veterans heal from both PTSD as well as traumatic brain injuries. Its founder, Roxann Abrams, is a Gold Star Mother who lost her son SFC Randy Abrams in 2009. Randy took his own life after experiencing a PTSD flashback from his service in Iraq. Randy had undiagnosed PTSD- a common occurrence among combat veterans either due to mistakes made by the medical field or simply the individual’s failure to report such grave symptoms.

As a result of her son’s death, Abrams founded Operation: I.V. so that combat veterans who served in either Iraq or Afghanistan have a place to receive treatment through a specialized “VIP”, or “Veteran Intervention Plan” program. “VIP” offers ten different rehabilitation programs, including hyperbolic oxygen therapy, service dogs, and anxiety reduction therapy. Additionally, veterans may also partake in programs such as job retraining, business mentoring, and educational assistance. Again, while there is no cure for PTSD, the programs provided by Operation: I.V. can drastically improve a veteran’s mental health and overall outlook on life. If you or someone you know is a war veteran, don’t let themselves become one of those mourned on Memorial Day. Give combat veterans the help that they so desperately need, and if it is already too late, as with the case of SFC Randy Abrams, do the best you can to commemorate and celebrate their lives as Roxann Abrams continues to do each day with her expanding and rehabilitating organization.

Author's Bio: 

Abigail Fazelat is a contributing writer for Operation: I.V., a non-profit organization founded by Gold Star Mother Roxann Abrams who lost her son SFC Randy Abrams to PTSD. Randy took his own life after experiencing a wartime flashback- an experience not uncommon to any combat veteran. As a result, Abrams founded Operation: I.V. as an “intravenous of help” for other Iraq and Afghanistan combat veterans suffering from PTSD, traumatic brain injuries, and contemplating suicide. Fazelat has worked for the organization since October 2013 under a pseudonym.