Recently, the Arcadia High School Band from Valley County performed a number of patriotic songs at the National World War II Memorial in Washington, DC. As the band closed with The Star-Spangled Banner a World War II veteran who was visiting the monument for the very first time rose from his seat and saluted the flag. This moving scene was a vivid reminder of the battles waged and the sacrifices made which allow us to enjoy freedom today.
The roots of Memorial Day (May 30, 2011) date back to 1868 when Major General John A. Logan declared Decoration Day would be observed on May 30 at Arlington National Cemetery. Thousands of citizens laid flowers at the grave sites of fallen service members. By the end of the 19th century, local cities across the country began holding ceremonies on May 30 and several state legislatures passed proclamations designating it as Memorial Day.
In 1971, Congress declared Memorial Day a national holiday out of respect for those who had died in all American wars throughout history. It gives the nation an opportunity to honor those who have given their lives to protect our way of life. It is a day of unity when we put differences aside and cherish the liberties defended by so many throughout our history.
But as Memorial Day passes and the unofficial start of summer begins, we should remain mindful beyond this particular holiday of the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice defending the freedoms we hold so dear. We do not only need a marking on our calendars to thank those who risked everything in service to our country as well as those who remain on the frontlines today.
The courage and sacrifices of troops currently serving in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and around the world to selflessly protect America is sincerely appreciated. Their perseverance and determination continues keeping our homeland safe from attacks, preserving our freedoms, and strengthening our way of life. We must work to ensure our troops have the necessary tools to complete their missions and to support them when they return home.
In his speech on the beaches of Normandy to commemorate the 40th anniversary of D-Day, Ronald Reagan said, "We will always remember. We will always be proud. We will always be prepared so we may always be free." Each day we experience the freedom America affords to her people should inspire us to remember the selfless acts of heroism our soldiers displayed in the past and honor the current service of our troops throughout the world. Those who answer the call to serve our nation -- past, present, and future -- are an inspiration to us all.
For more information about veterans issues, the latest developments from Congress, or to sign up for my e-mail newsletter, please visit my website at www.adriansmith.house.gov.