MESSAGE FROM THE SECRETARY – Memorial Day 2015

The following message is from a news release from the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairsva logo

Many have heard the saying, “Poor is the Nation that has no heroes, but beggared is the Nation that has and forgets them.”

On this Memorial Day, let us pause to remember those who gave the last full measure of devotion for our Nation.  Let us remember the special nobility and grace of those who donned the uniforms of our country and sacrificed their lives during times of conflict.  Let us remember—as we renew our commitment to honor those we have lost—that, every day, dedicated men and women put their lives on the line to protect all of us.  We owe them all our deepest gratitude.

Over 70 years ago, on June 6, 1944, 175,000 American, Canadian, and British troops spearheaded the Allies’ assault against the forces of tyranny threatening millions of people across Europe.  Exposed to devastating fire on the beaches of Normandy, those brave souls established a beachhead, began the Allied march across Europe, and sent a message of hope across the continent.  That message, writ large by the hands of heroes, signaled Freedom’s triumph over evil and the preface to peace for a world too long at war.

From the opening rounds of the American Revolution, through the devastation of the Civil War, through World War I, World War II, and Korea, through Vietnam and Desert Storm, to those who have fought—and fight still today—so hard and valiantly in Afghanistan and Iraq, more than a million American Servicemembers have paid the ultimate price to secure the blessings of liberty for our Nation and our allies around the world.

As many of our National Cemetery Administration employees prepare our cemeteries, our national shrines, and work on Memorial Day activities to welcome our guests, I encourage all of us to show our support for Veterans and honor those who have passed by attending or participating in an event at a national cemetery near you.  For a complete listing, please visit: http://www.cem.va.gov/CEM/cems/2015_Memorial_Day_Ceremonies.asp

At VA, we honor those lost in the way we care for those who returned home—and for their families and Survivors.  Thank you for all that you do for Veterans.  It is a privilege to serve with each one of you in fulfilling our sacred mission.

On this Memorial Day, may God bless our Veterans, their families, all of our VA employees and your families, and our great Nation.

Robert A. McDonald

The History of Memorial Day

Three years after the Civil War ended, on May 5, 1868, the head of an organization of Union veterans — the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) — established Decoration Day as a time for the nation to decorate the graves of the war dead with flowers. Maj. Gen. John A. Logan declared that Decoration Day should be observed on May 30. It is believed that date was chosen because flowers would be in bloom all over the country.

The first large observance was held that year at Arlington National Cemetery, across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C.

The ceremonies centered around the mourning-draped veranda of the Arlington mansion, once the home of Gen. Robert E. Lee. Various Washington officials, including Gen. and Mrs. Ulysses S. Grant, presided over the ceremonies. After speeches, children from the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Orphan Home and members of the GAR made their way through the cemetery, strewing flowers on both Union and Confederate graves, reciting prayers and singing hymns.

Click here to continue reading the history at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Website.

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