By Rep. Steve Mentzer (R-Lititz)
On Memorial Day, we remember those who have served and fallen in the defense of liberty and democracy.
All across America, a grateful nation comes together to honor the men and women, who protect us here at home and overseas every day.
Memorial Day began as Decoration Day, with the simple act of decorating the graves of fallen Civil War soldiers during and immediately after the end of the conflict that claimed more American lives, north and south combined, than any other war.
Today we take the time to remember all soldiers, airmen and sailors who have given their lives serving America, up to and including the men and women who have died on the front lines in the global war on terror.
These men and women have not fallen in vain. They gave their lives in service to this great nation to preserve freedom for this generation and generations to come.
What is it that inspires and enables ordinary citizens to rise to the challenge of battle, to be willing to make the ultimate sacrifice of their lives in service to their country?
What is it that motivates them to respond and contribute wherever and whenever they are called upon to do so?
The answer is contained within a single concept: core values.
Loyalty: to bear true faith and allegiance to the U.S. Constitution, their branch of service, the unit, and to their comrades in arms.
Duty: to fulfill obligations;
Respect: to treat people as they should be treated;
Selfless-Service: to put the welfare of the nation, before his or her own;
Honor: to live up to all of the Military’s values;
Integrity: to do what’s right, legally and morally;
Personal Courage: to face fear, danger, or adversity, whether physical or moral.
Today, these values are the cornerstone of all training our military personnel receive and the standard against which behavior is measured.
These are the same values that shaped our Military in the snow at Valley Forge, on the beaches of Normandy, on the rocks of Iwo Jima, in the streets of Mogadishu, the mountains of Afghanistan, and the sands of the Middle East.
Values are the American soldiers’ credentials, just as our soldiers are America’s credentials, both at home and around the globe.
Today we honor these values by remembering the men and women who lived and died by them on our behalf.
I am reminded of the immortal words of President Calvin Coolidge: “A nation which forgets its defenders will itself be forgotten.”
America has continued to remember its fallen soldiers – every day, on every anniversary, on every national holiday – right here in our communities and across the nation. It makes us stronger to recognize the sacrifices of others.
We sometimes forget that we are privileged to live in this land. We are free to pursue the basic freedoms that many people around the world are denied daily.
Without the sacrifices of American fighting men and women, we would not have the freedom and liberty that we do today.
Many soldiers gave their lives so that the rest of us might live in a free nation. Their sacrifice for us must be remembered.
We cannot let Memorial Day be just another holiday where people get a day off from work.
This day is important to our nation and to those who defend our freedoms.
To forget their memory is to dishonor the sacrifice of the veterans whose gravestones are mute reminders that our vigilance must be constant and everlasting.
I truly appreciate the blessings of freedom that have been bestowed upon us by those who have fought for the American values we hold dear – those who gave everything on behalf of our common good.
When we pull together as a nation, we can achieve great things. We can fight any battle and face any challenge.
This day reminds us of our duty to honor not only those who we lost in freedom’s cause, but also those who came back home and are now veterans.
Also, we must not forget the families of those POWs and MIAs who never came home. Let us pray that those families one day experience the closure they long for and deserve.
Let’s turn our attention to our men and women in uniform who continue to serve the United States with honor and courage around the world today.
America remains the world’s leading force for peace, prosperity and freedom in the 21st century. We must not walk away from the challenges.
To overcome some of those challenges, in years past, soldiers have had to engage in trench warfare, battle poisonous gasses, charge deadly beaches, march through mud, and trudge through rice paddies. Many were cut down as they surged forward. They paid a very exact cost for our freedom.
But beyond remembering yesterday’s fallen heroes, we must awaken to the challenges of tomorrow and be ever vigilant in the face of adversity that would threaten the values we hold so close that many men have put their lives on the line to defend them.
The challenges of the future won’t be any easier than those of the past. Freedom is not retained any easier than it is earned.
So, in remembrance of what Memorial Day means to us all, I’d like to thank all who have served our country, especially those who have given their lives to preserve the freedoms and liberties we all share today.