As we approach the upcoming Memorial Day holiday, we may be looking forward to a long weekend, traveling to visit friends and family, or stocking up for a backyard barbeque. However, Memorial Day is a significant occasion 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, NY 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 140 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 WWII 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 like Afghanistan and Iraq. I commend the valor and courage of our troops 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. Please join me in observing the National Moment of Remembrance at 3 p.m., local time, on May 30th to honor the sacrifice of our fallen and give thanks for the service of our veterans.
We, the beneficiaries of this seemingly endless stream of valor, often fall short in our efforts to commemorate those who bought with blood the freedom that is our birthright. But try we must for theirs is a noble story full of sacrifice for a cause greater than one's self.