Today, the last Monday in May, is set aside to honor all the soldiers, sailors, airmen, Coast Guardsmen, Marines and merchant mariners who have given their lives for us.
It is a day to remember all those laid to rest at sacred sites across the globe.
It is a day to remember those who lie in unmarked graves on foreign shores;
It is a day to remember those entombed beneath the waves;
It is a day to remember those who were taken prisoner and never released;
It is a day to remember those who remain Missing in Action.
These brave men and women came from all across America, from small towns and big cities, from all walks of life, representing many different races, ethnic and religious groups, to answer their Nation’s call of duty. They swore an oath of allegiance to the Constitution and went where they were sent and did what they were asked. Each person lost has been important – cherished by family and friends; missed by comrades-in-arms who stood with that person. Behind every decorated grave today of a fallen American Service member is a story of grief that came to a spouse, a mother, a child, a family and a town.
Whatever your plans this Memorial Day, please take a moment to remember those who gave everything.
“In America’s cities and towns today, flags will be placed on graves in cemeteries; public officials will speak of the sacrifice and the valor of those whose memory we honor.
“In 1863, when he dedicated a small cemetery in Pennsylvania marking a terrible collision between the armies of North and South, Abraham Lincoln noted the swift obscurity of such speeches. Well, we know now that Lincoln was wrong about that particular occasion. His remarks commemorating those who gave their “last full measure of devotion” were long remembered. But since that moment at Gettysburg, few other such addresses have become part of our national heritage – not because of the inadequacy of the speakers, but because of the inadequacy of words.
“I have no illusions about what little I can add now to the silent testimony of those who gave their lives willingly for their country. Words are even more feeble on this Memorial Day, for the sight before us is that of a strong and good nation that stands in silence and remembers those who were loved and who, in return, loved their countrymen enough to die for them.
“Yet, we must try to honor them, not for their sakes alone, but for our own. And if words cannot repay the debt we owe these men, surely with our actions we must strive to keep faith with them and with the vision that led them to battle and to final sacrifice.
“Our first obligation to them and ourselves is plain enough: The United States and the freedom for which it stands, the freedom for which they died, must endure and prosper. Their lives remind us that freedom is not bought cheaply. It has a cost; it imposes a burden. And just as they whom we commemorate were willing to sacrifice, so too must we – in a less final, less heroic way – be willing to give of ourselves.” – Ronald Regan at Memorial Day Ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery on May 31, 1982