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Posted 5/26/2017

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By Stacy Tennison
U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center, Public Affairs


From the revolution for independence to the internal conflicts of the Civil War, from the war to end all wars to the present battles in Syria, millions have laid down their lives to make us free.

This Monday, all across America, people of all ages, ethnic backgrounds and faiths will join together to remember the sacrifice our servicemen and servicewomen have made in wars past and present so we can enjoy our freedom. We will remember those brave men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice for us.

Memorial Day was first widely observed on May 30, 1868 and was originally known as “Decoration Day,” a time set aside to honor the nation’s Civil War dead by decorating their graves in hamlets, towns and cities across the nation.

After World War I, observances began to honor those who had died in all of America’s wars, and in 1971, Congress declared Memorial Day a national holiday.

More than 1.1 million servicemen and servicewomen have died in battle since the Revolutionary War. Memorial Day gives us time, as a nation and a grateful people, to remember the ultimate sacrifice paid by these brave men and women. 

Why is paying homage to the fallen woven into the very fabric of America? 

The Cost: Freedom is never really free; it is almost always bought with the blood of Patriots.

Lest We Forget: “Those who long enjoy such privileges that we enjoy forget in time that others have died to win them.” -- President Franklin D. Roosevelt, one week after the attack on Pearl Harbor

We Inspire Others: Sculpted in Rome, “the Freedom Lady” was brought to America by ship. A fierce storm developed during the voyage and the captain ordered cargo to be thrown overboard to lighten the ship’s load. The sailors wanted to throw the “Freedom Lady” overboard, but the captain refused, shouting over the wind, “No! Never! We’ll flounder before we throw ‘Freedom’ away.” Since 1863, the Freedom Lady has graced the top of the rotunda at the U.S. Capitol Building. She stands proudly atop the dome, a crest of stars framing her face and a shield of Stars and Stripes in her left hand. She stands today to inspire generations from around the world because one man, inspired by the freedoms we hold dear, stood for freedom on that voyage. 

On Memorial Day, we remember the fallen. We pay respect to men and women who chose to fight for us and to die if necessary so that we may live free. By remembering them, we show their service was not in vain, and we teach generations coming after them that there are causes worth dying for so that others can enjoy a life free from oppression and tyranny and full of hope and promise for the future. 

In his Gettysburg address, President Abraham Lincoln reminded us that our fallen shall not have died in vain, that we, the living, could only honor them through increased devotion to the cause for which they so willingly gave their lives.

So as you go about your holiday plans this Memorial Day, enjoy your time with family, hold that picnic, buy that discount mattress, but take a moment to be silent and remember heroes we will never meet but to whom we owe the deepest debt of gratitude. 
“If silence is ever golden, it must be beside the graves of … men whose lives were more significant than speech, and whose death was a poem the music of which can never be sung.”

Quotes to Reflect Upon:

“Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, to assure the survival and the success of liberty.” - President John F. Kennedy

“A Soldier doesn’t fight because he hates what is in front of him. He fights because he loves what he left behind.” -- Unknown

“Courage is contagious. When a brave man takes a stand, the spines of others are stiffened.” – The Rev. Billy Graham

“America is the home of the free because of the brave.” -- Unknown

“A people that values its privileges above its principles soon loses both.” -- President Dwight D. Eisenhower

“A nation that does not remember what it was yesterday does not know what it is today, or what it is trying to do. We are about a futile thing if we do not know where we came from or what we have been about.” – President Woodrow Wilson

ERDC Memorial Day USACE