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May 29, 2006
Today � Memorial Day
On November 19, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln traveled to Gettysburg, PA in response to an invitation to make a "few appropriate remarks" at the consecration of a cemetery for the Union war dead. Lincoln recognized it as an opportunity to honor all those who had given their lives in the War Between the States at the site where more men fought and more men died than in any other battle before or since on North American soil. On this Memorial Day, over 140 years later, his astute words still stir the soul.
Today, we pay tribute to our soldiers serving courageously around the world, during one of the most challenging periods in American history, while we honor all generations of brave American service—people who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our nation.
There are 241,000 Army soldiers, over 38,000 Navy personnel and hundreds of thousands of Marine, Air Force, Coast Guard, National Guard and reservists currently serving in 120 countries, in operations including:
Today we'll enjoy picnics and parades and gatherings with friends and family.
All will spend this and every day enjoying the freedom and safety provided them by those who have heeded the call to protect us — not by despotic fiat, but rather by a love for and loyalty to a democratic nation unlike any other on this earth.
Today, some will visit cemeteries and memorials in remembrance of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice to protect the liberty of their countrymen.
Today we'll remember that our country was founded in struggle, and that great strides often require great sacrifices. And we'll remember those whose lives were lost in the battles to achieve or retain our nation's greatness
Today we'll mourn alongside the families of the fallen, while we empathize with the families of the currently deployed. Today we'll keep a special thought for those still anguishing over the unresolved fate of POWs yet unaccounted for and those labeled 'missing in action.'
Today we'll share in the joy and suffering of families receiving returning soldiers, such as the recent homecoming of the Third Infantry and 48th Brigade from Iraq, many with injuries and wounds that forever changed their military careers and their lives.
Today we'll pause to ponder the reasons why, in an era of unprecedented global communication, the images recalled from our short—term visual memory are those of crooked politicians and fallen CEOs, rather than fire—fights in Baquba or IED—caused dismemberments on Main Supply Route Tampa near Balad in Iraq.
Today we'll take the time to reflect upon the human aspects of our troop deployment, rather than those strategic or political.
Finally, today, while we fly our American Flags at half—mast until noon and place smaller versions on the graves of our fallen heroes, it is imperative that we not lose sight of what the stars and stripes adorning Old Glory symbolize. Not the 13 stripes representing the original 13 states. Not the 50 stars which have expanded to designate our present state membership. Rather, the republic for which it stands —— One nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
Marc Sheppard 5 29 06