(May 30, 2011) Today, we pay homage to those who placed themselves on
the Altar of Freedom for love of country. Memorial Day is a time for
remembrance, reflection, and respect-for honoring the men and women who
gave their lives in service to the Nation.
On the last Monday of May each year, we observe moments of silence and
moments of tribute to acknowledge the sacrifices by these brave few for
principles greater than self. In answering their calls to duty-at
Tarawa and Normandy, Seoul and Chosin, the Ia Drang and Khe Sanh, and at
Baghdad and Mosul, the Shahe' Kot, Korengal, and Marja, or any of a host
of other crossroads of conflict-these American men and women stood their
ground, held back the dark forces of oppression and destruction, and
advanced our founding principles, ideals, beliefs, and values about the
right of self-determination. They cherished liberty and loved freedom
enough to lay down their lives to preserve our way of life.
Many lie in final rest in our national cemeteries. Whether at
Gettysburg, one of our country's first national cemeteries, or at
Washington Crossing, our most recent dedication, each VA national
cemetery is a sacred place of honor befitting the great deeds and
sacrifices of the Fallen.
More than 3.7 million Americans-Veterans of every war and conflict, from
our Revolution to the Global War on Terror-have been laid to rest in
these hallowed shrines. The quiet serenity, pristine nature, and strict
adherence to time-honored Service traditions make our cemeteries the
healing places where families and friends can remember and honor those
who gave, in President Lincoln's words, "the last full measure of
This Memorial Day, a Nation at war prays for peace and the safe return
of our sons and daughters, even as it exacts justice from those who
trampled our most cherished principles. Now, as then, in addition to
our prayers for peace, we pray for the families of the Fallen. And we
pray for the Almighty's continued blessings on this great and wonderful
country of ours.