Summary: A day is coming when all of us will be called to remember our lives – our attitudes and our actions – and to give an accounting for them. some will carry the memory of their sins and their rebellion for eternity, while others’ sin has been cast into the s
“I am an American fighting man. I serve in the forces that guard our country and protect our way of life. I am prepared to give my life in their defense.” Article I, United States Code Of Conduct
Head-lifting, chest-filling, adrenalin-pumping, flag-waving words.
All across our nation tomorrow, and on American military installations around the globe, a tradition that is more than 140-years old will be observed – American fighting men and women who have lived and died honoring this code will be mourned and their sacrificial service commemorated.
Hundreds of parades, thousands of speeches, and hundreds of thousands of miniature American flags, and millions of flowers will be offered in tribute to the memory of those who sacrificed all they had for what they believed in.
Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, is a day of remembrance for those who have died in our nation’s service. Memorial Day is not about division. It is about reconciliation; it is about coming together to honor those who gave their all.
Traditional observance of Memorial Day has diminished over the years. Many Americans nowadays have forgotten the meaning and traditions of Memorial Day. At many cemeteries, the graves of the fallen are increasingly ignored, neglected. Most people no longer remember the proper flag etiquette for the day.
While there are towns and cities that still hold Memorial Day parades, many have not held a parade in decades. Some people think the day is for honoring any and all dead, and not just those fallen in service to our country.
There are a few notable exceptions. On the Thursday before Memorial Day, the 1,200 soldiers of the 3d U.S. Infantry place small American flags at each of the more than 280,000 gravestones at Arlington National Cemetery. They then patrol 24 hours a day during the weekend to ensure that each flag remains standing. This has been their practice since the early 1950’s.
In 1951, the Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts of St. Louis began placing flags on the 150,000 graves at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery as an annual Good Turn, a practice that continues to this day.
Since 1998, the Boys Scouts and Girl Scouts of Fredericksburg, Virginia, place a candle on the Saturday before Memorial Day at each one of more than 15,300 gravesites of soldiers buried at Spotsylvania National Military Park on Marye’s Heights.
In 2004, Washington D.C. held its first Memorial Day parade in over 60 years.
Remarks by President Bush
At Arlington National Cemetery Memorial Day Commemoration
Arlington National Cemetery
May 31, 2004
This morning I had the honor of placing a wreath before the Tomb of the Unknowns. This custom is observed every Memorial Day on behalf of the American people as a mark of gratitude and respect.
And when this ceremony is concluded, and all of us have gone on our way, the Honor Guard will keep watch over the Tomb. Every hour of every day, on the coldest nights, in the hardest rain, there is a sentinel of the 3rd U.S. Infantry standing guard. The soldiers entrusted with that duty count it a privilege. And, today, as we reflect on the men and women who have died in the defense of America, all of us count it a privilege to be citizens of the country they served.
In the military tradition, no one is left behind on the field of battle. And our nation is determined to account for all of the missing. The same spirit can be seen in the respect we show to each life laid down for this nation. We receive them in sorrow, and we take them to an honored place to rest. At this and other cemeteries across our country, and in cemeteries abroad where heroes fell, America acknowledges a debt that is beyond our power to repay.
This weekend, we dedicated the World War II Memorial, which will stand forever as a tribute to the generation that fought that war and the more than 400,000 Americans who fell. Some here today can turn their minds back across 60 years and see the face of a buddy who never made it home. You are veterans who have not forgotten your comrades. And America will always honor the achievements and the character of your brave generation.
Through our history, America has gone to war reluctantly, because we have known the costs of war. And the war on terror we’re fighting today has brought great costs of its own. Since the hour this nation was attacked, we have seen the character of the men and women who wear our country’s uniform. In places like Kabul and Kandahar, in Mosul and Baghdad, we have seen their decency and their brave spirit. Because of their fierce courage, America is safer, two terror regimes are gone forever, and more than 50 million souls now live in freedom.