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A time to remember and honor

Published 9:24pm Saturday, May 26, 2012

By Congressman J. Randy Forbes

“Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States, where men were free.”

President Ronald Reagan spoke those prophetic words during his presidency, and this Memorial Day we must stop, reflect and give gratitude to the families of the men and women who died protecting our liberty.

The American people have always stopped to reflect on the great sacrifices that those in uniform have made and will continue to make. Memorial Day is a day to honor all those who have paid the ultimate price. We must never take for granted the sacrifice that our fellow Americans have made in defense of our nation.

Even though we have set apart this special day for those who have made the ultimate sacrifice, our troops deserve our admiration and support throughout the year, not just on a select few days. I encourage everyone to visit a war memorial, a cemetery in their neighborhood or one of many observances across the district.

The men and women who have given their lives for us come from various backgrounds, various economic and social circumstances and various geographical parts of our nation, but they all share one thing in common. They all believed in America and were willing to stand up for their beliefs.

Today and every day we stand united in our gratitude for these individuals.

Memorial Day has been a longstanding tradition in the United States. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the first form of Memorial Day was actually called Decoration Day and was held in 1868. The day was meant as a time for decorating the graves of dead veterans with flowers. Officially, Congress and President Lyndon Johnson declared that Waterloo, N.Y., was the “birthplace” of Memorial Day in 1966.

Memorial Day is a time for our entire nation to come together and unite behind those who paid the ultimate sacrifice. The federal holiday, sales at the department store and backyard barbecues are far from the meaning of what Memorial Day truly represents.

Memorial Day should always be a day to honor, remember and thank those who have fought for our liberties and lost their lives in doing so. Their selfless demeanor means that our nation lives on to fight another day.

Memorial Day is also a day of reflection, as we remember those who died on foreign battlefields around the world, thus enabling us to enjoy our way of life, our values and our freedoms.

We should always remember that freedom has a price that some families have paid dearly for. Freedom rests on the shoulders of those who were willing to bleed and die for our nation. Those who fought and died understood the sacrifice they were making for the greater good and for the survival of our nation.

As President Reagan said, freedom needs to be protected in every generation. We have our fallen troops to thank for passing the torch of freedom to us, and it is our responsibility to ensure that we pass it onto our children and grandchildren.

Congressman J. Randy Forbes represents the 4th District of Virginia. He can be reached at www.forbes.house.gov.

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