When you walk the hollowed grounds of Arlington, Gettysburg, and Normandy, you see row upon row of marble headstones. Etched into them are names known to many and names known to none. What the men and women who rest beneath them have in common is their brave, selfless service to our nation — and lives cut short and unlived.
Memorial Day is an opportunity for us to honor all who gave what President Abraham Lincoln called “the last full measure of devotion.” The United States is an experiment in democracy, a beacon of freedom to the world—and the veterans we celebrate today died protecting and upholding its ideals. As we reflect on their service and sacrifice, we also remember the words of General George Patton, who reminded us to “thank God that such men lived.”
Just a few weeks ago, I spoke on the Senate Floor to honor the lives and express my condolences to the families of the three soldiers from the 1-25th Attack Reconnaissance Battalion, 11th Airborne Division, who were killed when their Apache helicopters collided and crashed. Chief Warrant Officer 3 Christopher Robert Eramo, Chief Warrant Officer 2 Kyle D. McKenna, and Warrant Officer 1 Stewart Duane Wayment dedicated themselves to the service of our country, and exemplified the highest ideals of our military.
While Memorial Day is dedicated to those who gave their lives for our country, we also take a moment to thank those who are now serving—risking their lives for us, every day, both here and in distant theaters to prevent those threats from ever reaching our shores.
I’m proud of the steps that Congress has taken to uphold our commitment to our servicemembers and veterans, from benefits and education to housing, health care, and quality of life improvements. Last year, we passed the Honoring Our Pact Act, which greatly expanded Veteran Affairs health care access and benefits for those who were exposed to burn pits and other toxic substances. But Memorial Day is a reminder that we can never do enough to repay our debt of gratitude for those who have given so much to protect our freedoms.
As we honor the men and women who fell in service to our nation, we must keep their memories alive through their stories. And as individuals, we should look to our own service to our neighborhoods, communities, and churches. Seek out opportunities to volunteer and give back to our great state; cherish the freedoms that we often take for granted, and help make our nation a shining example of what our servicemembers died for.
Although many of the men and women who served during “The Greatest Generation” have passed on, and “Baby Boomers” are aging, the generational traditions of military service have not been lost or forgotten. Let’s stand as a community and support those still serving, as the future of our nation weighs in the balance of their service.
God bless our troops, and let us never forget those Prisoners of War and Missing in Action, until everyone comes home.