When it comes to having an extra day off work, it's easy to be distracted from the true meaning of this weekend’s “holiday.”

It's hard for me to think of Memorial Day as a holiday, as it's a day set aside specifically to mourn those who’ve lost their lives while protecting ours. At this very moment, men and women are risking their own mortality, so we can enjoy freedom like no other country in the world can even begin to imagine.

Is one day really enough to give thanks and recognition to those who believe in America so much they’re willing to leave their families, their homes and their lives so we can continue on with ours in peace?

While we're grilling hot dogs and having fun in the sun (or probably rain) this Memorial Day, it will be easy to avoid the unpleasant thought of those missing from their families' picnic table, some never to return.

I have had the honor and privilege to interact with the VA hospital in Kansas City during the years of taking care of both of our dads. I’d never been to a VA Hospital before, but growing up it seems I only heard bad things about it. In my mind I pictured it as an old, decrepit hospital for those who couldn't afford to go to a "regular" doctor. I was wrong and feel guilty for thinking that way.

If you've never had a reason to go to the VA Hospital or if you haven't been for a while – please take the time to witness for yourself what a wonderful facility is being provided for our men and women who have served in the military.

I was amazed with the facility itself. These buildings hold professional doctors with the latest in technical equipment to tend to any problem, mental or physical, that a veteran may have. We were always greeted with a smiling face and extended hand – whether it was from the doctor, nurse or the custodian sweeping the floors. A hospital environment – yes – but as warm and welcoming as visiting an old friend.

The place was always busy and full of people, young and old, as they make their way through the process and procedures of getting the medical attention they need and so deserve. Sometimes the wait is long, but it's always worth it, as the doctors see each patient as an individual, not just as a number.

These folks may bear battle scars, but their pride of having served our country overshadows their wounds.

With freedom comes responsibility and responsibility means obligation.

Our military has paid, and is still paying, their part of the obligation, and it is our responsibility, as Americans, to salute our fallen, thank our living and remember those who are at war today.

Sandy Turner lives in Independence. Email her at sandydownhome@hotmail.com.