Today is Memorial Day

This Memorial Day weekend, tens of thousands of Americans will visit our national cemeteries to pay their respects and to honor the fallen.

Moving observances, including “Avenues of Flags,” color guards, gravesite flags, concerts and choirs, and historic displays, will be conducted by Veterans Service Organizations, local community groups, and civic associations.

At Natchez National Cemetery in Mississippi and Grafton National Cemetery in West Virginia, citizens will participate in grand processions. The Natchez procession first took place in 1889 and is over 5 miles long, while the Grafton procession is even older, dating back to just after the Civil War.

At the Black Hills National Cemetery, our Interim Under Secretary for Memorial Affairs, Ron Walters, will speak on the first anniversary of our important Veterans Legacy Program—an innovative VA initiative to extend memorialization of Veterans interred in our cemeteries and increase student interest in history. Black Hills State University is one of the first grant recipients of this program that funds studies of Veterans buried in nearby national, state, and tribal cemeteries.

It has been said, “poor is the Nation that has no heroes, but beggared is the Nation that has and forgets them.” Visiting our national cemeteries is a way of remembering our heroes.

Those who lie in eternal peace in our national shrines did not sacrifice for fame or for rewards; they served and sacrificed for the greater good, for their comrades in arms, and for all of us—so that we and future generations can enjoy the fruits of liberty, justice, and the freedoms guaranteed in our Constitution and Bill of Rights. Many of those buried in our cemeteries gave what Abraham Lincoln called, “the last full measure of devotion.” We owe them our profound gratitude, and we must pass that sense of obligation on to the next generation.

On this Memorial Day, may God bless the memory of those who gave all for America. God bless our Veterans and their families; and, may God continue to bless this great nation.

Dr. David J. Shulkin is the Secretary of Veterans Affairs. Prior to his confirmation on Feb. 13, 2017, Dr. Shulkin served as VA’s Under Secretary for Health for 18 months, leading the nation’s largest integrated health care system, with over 1,700 sites of care serving nearly nine million Veterans.

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