They shed their blood for the freedoms we too often take for granted. And yet we all know that freedom isn't free.
These heroes ''shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old, age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn,'' as the poignant verse says.
And for those of us who served and live every day with our injuries, these selfless heroes will forever be a permanent source of inspiration. We honor their precious memory by fighting for the freedoms they held so dear and gave their lives for -- for the freedoms to ensure that America's paralyzed veterans don't just live free, but live free with dignity and empowerment:
• A nation where veterans' benefits and healthcare are fully funded. Our new commander-in-chief and Congress should be applauded for providing a historic healthcare funding increase for the Department of Veterans Affairs and addressing the need for sufficient, timely, predictable funding for the VA. This means that we veterans are more likely to get the quality care we've earned sooner.
• A country that's barrier-free everywhere for everyone -- we need universal wheelchair access in the land of the free and the home of thousands of brave paralyzed veterans and millions of people with disabilities.
• An American scientific and medical community that's fully funded to achieve new treatments and cures -- the truth is that the dream of new therapies, and even walking again, for many is within our grasp. To achieve the breakthroughs, we need more investment, now.
In their memory, we are resolved to win this fight to help all veterans and their families. Since Paralyzed Veterans of America (www.pva.org) was founded 63 years ago after World War II, we have fought for and secured billions of dollars in earned VA benefits and healthcare funding. We led the charge for the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, an important first step for us folks in wheelchairs.
With our 34 chapters we have invested more than $100 million to find new treatments and a cure for paralysis. And we plan to do a lot more. ``At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember them.''
We continue to fight in memory of that band of brothers and sisters whose sacrifice we can never repay.
Randy L. Pleva (USMC, Ret.) is national president of Paralyzed Veterans of America.