Memorial Day is more than a holiday to mark the start of summer. While to many this long holiday weekend means traveling to visit friends and family or stocking up for a backyard barbeque, we must not forget that it is a day to commemorate the brave service of men and women who have given their lives protecting the freedoms we enjoy as Americans.
Though historical accounts of how Memorial Day came to be differ, it is generally believed that is was first officially observed nationally on May 30, 1868. General John A. Logan, first commander of the Grand Army of the Republic issued General Order No. 11 calling on Americans to decorate the graves of fallen comrades who died in the Civil War. Later the U.S. government, under the leadership of President Lyndon Johnson, declared Waterloo, New York the official birthplace of Memorial Day. The town of Waterloo first began celebrating Memorial Day community-wide in 1866. Memorial Day became an official holiday by decree of the Congress in 1971.
The world today is a very different place than it was 144 years ago, but honoring our fallen veterans remains very much a part of our nation's identity. In our nation's capitol, monuments such as the Iwo Jima Memorial, Vietnam Veteran's Memorial Wall, the World War II Memorial, and the Korean Memorial serve as physical reminders of the men and women who have given their lives in service to their country. Throughout our nation's history, more than one million men and women have made the ultimate sacrifice to protect our liberty.
We do indeed live in a great nation. As Americans we enjoy the right to worship freely, to pursue a college education, to seek employment or own our own businesses, to vote for elected officials and participate in local, state and federal governments, and to speak our minds no matter how popular or unpopular our ideas might be. But these and many other freedoms do not come without a price. Today our troops continue to battle the foes of democracy and freedom in places across the globe. I commend the valor and courage of our armed forces who bravely step into unfamiliar territory against sometimes unseen enemies to protect millions of Americans and others they may never meet. It is fitting to honor these great lives of service.
Our nation's heroes should be celebrated and their selflessness never forgotten. And so on this Memorial Day weekend I ask you to take a moment to reflect on our blessings as a nation. To all who serve, and have served, our great nation, thank you. Protecting our freedoms is not an easy job and we are truly grateful for your sacrifice. May God bless our troops and may He continue to bless the United States of America.