Continue the legacy of Memorial Day

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In the life of our nation, there are few more sacred places than our national cemeteries – around the world, at Arlington and our national cemeteries across the country.

In the life of our nation, there are few more sacred places than our national cemeteries – around the world, at Arlington and our national cemeteries across the country.

At its core, the nobility and the majesty of Memorial Day can be found in the story of ordinary Americans who become extraordinary for the most simple of reasons:  They loved their country so deeply, so profoundly, that they were willing to give their lives to keep it safe and free.

In another time, they might have led a life of comfort and ease.  But a revolution needed to be won.  Or a Union needed to be preserved.  Or our harbor was bombed.  Or our country was attacked on a clear September morning.

So they answered their country’s call.  They stepped forward.  They raised their hand.  They took an oath, just as all of you did.  And they earned a title that would define them for the rest of their lives.  A soldier.  A sailor. An airman. A Marine. A Coast Guardsman.

Today, we can imagine what it must have been like, for all those they fought to save, when American forces finally came into view.  A country was liberated.  A Holocaust was over.  A town was rid of insurgents.  A village was finally free from the terror of violent extremists.

But had you asked any troop – any of those troops in the past, they would have likely told you the same thing.  Yes, we fought for freedom.  Yes, we fought for that flag.  But most of all, we fought for each other – to bring our buddies home; to keep our families safe.  And that’s what they did, to their last breath.

This is what we honor today – the lives they led, the service they rendered, the sacrifice that they’ve made for us.  In this time of war, we pay special tribute to the thousands of Americans who have given their lives during the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and who have earned their place among the greatest of generations.  And though our heart aches in their absence, we find comfort in knowing that their legacy shines bright on the people they loved – America’s Gold Star families.   

And finally, on this day of remembrance, I say to every American the legacy of these fallen soldiers, these fallen heroes, lives on in each of us.  The security that lets us live in peace, the prosperity that allows us to pursue our dreams, the freedom that we cherish – these were earned by the blood and the sacrifice of patriots who went before.  And now it falls on us to preserve that inheritance for all who follow.

And today, our forces are fighting and dying once more, in faraway lands, to keep our homeland safe.  Some of you have come from overseas deployments, some of you are about to go.  Let us make sure that all of us are worthy of your sacrifice and of the sacrifices who have fallen.  Let us go forward as they do, with the confidence and the resolve, the resilience and the unity that’s always defined us as a people, and shaped us as a nation and made America a beacon of hope to the world. President Barack Obama, May 31, 2010 (excerpted) 

Copyright 2010 Chicago Defender.

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