By Rep. Jeff Miller of Florida
Here is a guest contribution to our blog from Rep. Jeff Miller (FL-01), Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs.
I attended Wreaths Across America at Barrancas National Cemetery in Pensacola, Florida, this past Christmas. Barrancas is the final resting place to more than 40,000 veterans and their loved ones. The cemetery traces its roots back to the Civil War, where both Union and Confederate soldiers were buried in the cemetery's 94 picturesque acres onboard Naval Air Station Pensacola.
That morning, I laid a wreath at the gravesite of John E. Griswold, a World War II veteran who passed away last May. His recent death was a reminder to me of how many of our heroes from World War II we are losing every day.
The passing of a generation illustrates the importance of the mission of Wreaths Across America. Each of us who lays a wreath becomes personally involved with the life of the veteran we are honoring--be it a veteran of World War II, Korea, Vietnam, the current wars, or even a conflict farther back in our nation's history. As we place a wreath, we wonder what that veteran did and saw, where he served, who he served with, and what his life was like after the military. These are questions we may never have the answers to, but we do know that their service, courage, duty, and patriotism protected our nation and made America a better place.
The same goes for our living veterans today. We may not each by name, but they are part of our communities and our lives. It is a privilege for us to meet the men and women who serve today, and our veterans whose stories we need to listen to, cherish, and capture--even if only in our own minds.
With Memorial Day fast approaching, I hope every American takes the opportunity to remember our veterans, past and present, and pay homage to them. Pause for a moment during your activities that weekend--whether at a barbeque, parade, or family reunion--and remember why we as a nation commemorate the lives of America's fallen and their families each May.
When we honor the living, we respect the dead. When we remember the dead, we salute the living.