This year, America observes Memorial Day on Monday, May 26th. At cemeteries and memorials across the nation, in tributes both public and private, we will gather to honor those who died in service to our country.
Memorial Day began as a solemn remembrance of America's fallen heroes. Unfortunately, today this has changed. By regarding Memorial Day as simply the last day of a long weekend, we risk losing its deeper meaning.
We must be vigilant in our efforts to remember those who died in service to our country. Two years ago, I authored a Senate Resolution which is now law, to observe a National Moment of Remembrance at 3:00 p.m local time each Memorial day. Reserving this moment to reflect on Memorial Day is one way to honor those who died in service to our country. While Memorial Day provides an opportunity to keep the memory of these courageous men and women alive, it is a daily challenge.
The Library of Congress Veterans History Project is dedicated to preserving the experiences of America's veterans. The History Project aims to record the oral histories of every living veteran. The interviews are archived and will become an exhaustive, permanent record of the uncommon courage and startling sacrifices of thousands of veterans.
Twenty-one years ago, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial was built as a permanent testament to over 58,000 veterans who died during the Vietnam War. As a place of remembrance for Vietnam veterans and their families, it has become the most-visited monument in Washington D.C..
As the Vietnam War draws further into America's past, it is important for future generations to remember the sacrifices of those who gave their lives in Vietnam, and to understand the lessons learned in Vietnam. The true value of peace is familiar only to those who know the price of war.
This week, I joined my colleagues and fellow Vietnam veterans, Senators John McCain and John Kerry in introducing the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Education Center Bill. The bill would authorize the construction of an Education Center near the site of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
Most visitors to the Wall today were not alive during the Vietnam War. The Education Center would serve as an access point for the next generation. By collecting historic documents, artifacts and the testimony of Vietnam veterans, the Education Center would provide visitors with a better understanding of the Memorial. Because it would be built underground, the Education Center would not distract from the natural beauty of the Mall.
Many educators, veterans, lawmakers and organizations have voiced strong support for the proposed Education Center. Like the Wall, the Center would be funded entirely by private donations - evidence of its broad-based public support. There would be no tax payer money involved in building the Center.
The names on the Wall must never become simple, empty etchings. Their individual and collective power must remain connected to the real human sacrifices of war. The Education Center would help preserve this bond. It would affirm the meaning of the Wall, not just as an acknowledgment of a war, or a date to be remembered, but as a living memorial with lessons to offer.
It is a mistake to assume that courage and sacrifice cannot be forgotten, or that the lessons of war cannot be lost to history. The vigilant memory of those alive today preserves the sacrifice of those who died for our country.
It is worth remembering on Memorial Day.
If you are interested in participating the Library of Congress Veterans History Project, visit them on the web at: www.loc.gov/folklife/vets