Memorial Day serves as a time to commemorate all the veterans who perished in service to our county.
We honor their bravery, commitment to duty and their ultimate sacrifice. We honor the loyal families on whom our troops rely. We honor organizations that unite to remember the fallen, support our current troops and provide resources to our living veterans.
This Memorial Day comes during one of the worst pandemics in our country's history. COVID-19 has forever changed our health care system; our economic landscape; our conversations with coworkers, friends and family; and our everyday lives.
This period of great suffering has been likened to wartime. And while we have all been in the trenches during COVID-19, today I want to recognize the citizen soldiers among us who fight this battle – our first responders, frontline health care workers, National Guard and their families. These heroes continue their sacrifice now and in the immediate future to ensure all of our safety.
Those who have family members in the military know the pain and heartache associated with seeing a loved one sent to fight in a foreign land. COVID-19, however, brought the fight to us. Instead of being deployed overseas, our first responders were asked to answer the call much closer to home. Although COVID-19 did not bring weapons of war like our past enemies, the impact was equally powerful.
Frontline health care workers were sent to hospital ICUs to care for patients who tested positive for COVID-19. Emergency responders were sent to homes where potentially positive COVID-19 patients needed medical attention. And police officers and the National Guard were sent to our neighborhoods to protect us all in a time of immense uncertainty.
As in wartime, the families of these COVID-19 soldiers worried every day while their loved ones were in harm's way. Parents, siblings, spouses and children prayed for safety and well-being. And while this modern-day war did not require families to wait patiently to receive news via mail, the instant access to social media and breaking news headlines on computers, tablets and phones may have been more intense.
Also akin to wartime, we were inspired by stories of courage, service, humility and determination from those on the front line. Doctors, nurses, firefighters, police officers, National Guard and others fought tirelessly day after day to take care of their fellow Hoosiers.
Logistically, the landscape of this battle is different than the wars we have fought overseas, in our past and current times. But the hardship, uncertainty and pain are heartbreakingly similar.
As we slowly adjust to reopening our state, may we pay homage to the sacrifice of all who fought and continue to fight to keep us safe.
May we also take time to bestow this gratitude to the fallen soldiers who gave all for our freedom and democracy.
Dennis Wimer is director of the Indiana Department of Veterans Affairs.