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We celebrated a very important holiday, Memorial Day, on Monday.
It was a day that meant different things to different people. For many, it was the unofficial start of summer, marked with vacations and cookouts. For others, it was a day of reunion, used to reconnect, reminisce and remember loved ones.
The original meaning of the one holiday we reserve for memory, though, is to honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice to ensure our freedom and our way of life. Those who gave their lives for our country.
We have the pleasure and the privilege of living in the greatest nation in the world, maybe even the greatest in history. But we didn’t just become that way overnight. It took hard work, and even harder sacrifice, to make America what she is.
More than a million men and women have given their lives to create and preserve the United States of America. Their collective service spans continents and centuries. Their contribution is immeasurable.
Casualties of war are sometimes spoken of in large numbers like that – more than a million – but it is important to remember each number has a name and a story. Each is someone’s child or sibling, spouse, parent or friend. Some you remember personally. All, we honor.
When I think of all of the military men and women, living and dead, who have valiantly served our country, I am overcome with appreciation at the willingness and humility with which they dedicated – and at this moment, on distant fields, still dedicate – themselves to all of us.
I think sometimes in our busy lives we don’t stop to reflect on those who made our lives possible. We would all do well to pause and pay reverence to all of those who gave up their lives in a battle to protect ours. Because that is what Memorial Day is really all about.
We honor our fallen heroes through holidays, ceremonies and memorials, and we also honor them through the lives we live all year long. By not squandering our freedoms. By being active, involved members of our communities. And by helping our neighbors. By caring for those who did make it back.
Oftentimes, when a soldier returns home he or she faces another type of battle. Readjusting to civilian life. Catching up with family and friends. Finding work in an economy still recovering from recession. Recovering from the physical wounds of combat and dealing with the overwhelming mental anguish that all too often accompanies war.
To all of our military service members, both current and former, I say thank you. I – and your community – stand behind you and beside you. We appreciate you for all you have done for us and we are here to help you.
There are many services available to veterans. One very important one is the Veterans Crisis Line, manned 24/7. Veterans, if you need someone to talk to or need help, you can always call 800-273-8255 or visit www.veteranscrisisline.net.