For most Americans, Memorial Day marks the unofficial beginning of summer where many of us enjoy a three-day weekend relaxing with friends and family. As we celebrate the annual holiday this year, we all have another opportunity to reflect on why we commemorate the day.
There are many different stories of how, where and when Memorial Day came into being. Waterloo, New York, was declared the official birthplace of Memorial Day by President Lyndon Johnson in May of 1966. But in reality, special days of remembrance did not start in Waterloo or any other city in the US. Reports of communities honoring the graves of their fallen heroes with flowers and garlands go back to ancient Greece over 2,500 years ago.
In this modern era, American cities from coast-to-coast hold ceremonies on the last Monday in May to salute the special efforts of those who have sacrificed their lives in service to our country. The personal sacrifices these men and women have made embody everything that makes this country great and has preserved our nation through the toughest of times.
It’s difficult to imagine what the United States would be like if we did not have those who were willing to fight to protect our freedoms in our midst. Indeed, this country has been blessed by generations of brave men and women who unhesitatingly sacrificed—even their lives—so their fellow Americans might continue to enjoy the fruits of liberty. Suffice to say, if they had not answered their nation’s call, this world would be a very different place.
I have often said, that as Americans, we are truly blessed. We have been given the opportunity to share and promote the rights of all mankind — the right to live under the blanket known throughout the world as Freedom.
To truly appreciate such a gift, we must understand where it came from. Yes, our Founding Fathers gave us the formula for Freedom through our Constitution, but it remains intact today for one simple, yet valiant reason — the men and women of our Armed Forces and those who have supported the cause home and abroad.
These special people can take justifiable pride in their achievements and deserve our respect for the role they have played in world history. We owe them a special debt of gratitude which requires a commitment on our part. A commitment to the principles of our nation, and a willful dedication to preserve those principles.
I can think of no better way to celebrate this important holiday than by taking a moment to remember the people who fought and died for our country. For without them our way of life would be dramatically different from what our Founding Fathers envisioned.
I believe we all recognize that by taking a few minutes to reflect on the contributions made by the nation’s most steadfast and brave citizens is really not enough—it will never be enough. We don’t simply discharge our obligations with laurels and eulogies alone. But by honoring their courage this Memorial Day weekend, we help ensure their sacrifices will not have been made in vain.