Memorial Day Tribute

imageThis weekend we will celebrate Memorial Day as we honor our servicemen and women who have pledged to courageously defend this country at the risk of the ultimate sacrifice for freedom. It is also a time to remember the historic impact of the military on the lives of so many Americans and our moral responsibility to those who serve and sacrifice.

The history of the military in our everyday lives is a great equalizer when you consider the opportunities it has provided for so many.

Military pensions were the first public pension system in the United States which lead to retirement plans for non military personnel like teachers, firefighters, police and public employees.

History notes that Georgia Representative John Gibson left his sick bed in Georgia to return to Washington, DC to cast the critical tie-breaking vote for the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944 more commonly known as the GI Bill. President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed it into law on June 22, 1944. The passage of the bill offered education benefits to Americans who might never have seen such academic access. In 1947, veterans were nearly half of the nation’s registered college students. The bill also opened the doors to home ownership through low-interest, no-money-down mortgages, backed by the U.S. government. Many historians credit the legislation with igniting what we now call America’s middle class.

Back then the Veterans Administration (VA) was responsible for implementing the key provisions of the GI Bill, which included: education and training, loans for homes, farms or businesses, and for unemployment benefits.

Today the challenges of the VA to honorably serve those returning home from service is marked by federal investigations into the care it provides through its medical and mental health programs. This week in Atlanta, the Veterans Administration Medical Center named Leslie Wiggins as its new director. Her appointment comes at a time when the hospital has been the subject of federal investigations surrounding three deaths and allegations of lack of oversight and mismanagement at the facility.

As most of us enjoy the peace and safety of our daily lives, a few among us volunteer to serve as our protectors as they put themselves in harm’s way—-their service can never be forgotten.


  1. A friend reminded me that President Harry Truman integrated the armed services in 1948 leading the way to integration in mainstream America. The President’s leadership in this area is remembered by those who were serving in the military at the time. A few years ago I met a well known, highly successful developer on an economic development road trip. I was pitching Atlanta as the right place for his investment and asked about his most memorable life experiences. On the spot he recalled as one of his proudest memories the day he as the only Southerner was assigned to his Army Company team to make good on the President’s directive. The story was a joy to hear. Just a few months ago I learned his company has committed to a big Atlanta investment. Good for us and good for him.