Our great state of Michigan is now several weeks into a crisis that we are trying to control. It is an invisible enemy to our people and actions have been taken to keep our citizens safe. However, there is a group of men and women that I personally feel have been forgotten in this—our veterans.

Even before this crisis our governor and legislature have made decisions, including budget cuts, that have negatively impacted this group of people.

Our veterans have sacrificed years of their lives and their health, both physical and mental, and have watched as their brothers and sisters in arms have lost their lives on the battlefield. For who? For us. For all of us.

To compare the service of veterans to front line workers in the COVID-19 pandemic and to lower the American flag for anything other than our military is, at the very least, dishonorable, in my opinion.

That doesn’t take away from the true heroism we have seen from our front line people. I know that we all appreciate what our nurses, doctors, EMS and essential workers have done. And, it is well meaning intentions to honor their sacrifices for us all but it does show a troubling lack of compassion and empathy for our veterans.

I believe it openly demonstrates that our governor has no idea of the true sacrifices that have been made for that flag to fly in honor, and the real reasons it should fly at half staff.

As I speak to veterans who are my friends and neighbors, and remember my own father, who served in Korea, my heart breaks at the disregard shown toward these men and women.

One of the most recent budget cuts has affected the Regional Coordinator program. This program connected veterans with people who could talk to them and direct them to the medical help and psychological support that they desperately need.

To me, those actions are inexcusable and to accept them is to diminish what veterans have done for us.

Lapeer County Director of Veterans Affairs Pete Kirley served this country in three different conflicts. I spoke to him about the cuts and actions made by our state. He said one word—accountability. And he is right, our governor and our state need to be accountable to the men and women that have given so much.

“We, as veterans, may not be entitled to everything,” said Kirley. “But we are entitled to something.”

Hearing those simple words broke my heart. No veteran should feel that they get so little from our state government.

I don’t care if we are in the middle of a pandemic or going through uncertain times. Real leaders find a way to do the right thing for those that have given the most, that’s called integrity.

It is my hope that our government realizes that the consequences of their actions affect real people, real heroes, real men and women who gave their all for us. Now it is our turn to make sure that what they have done was not in vain.

—Barbara Brown Stasik, Yale