Memorial Day: Remember and honor our veterans

May 30, 2011

Ask children what Memorial Day means to them and they'll frequently say: "That's the day that the pools open."

Yet no other observance in America is more somber: It is the day we remember our war dead, pay homage to their sacrifice and courage, and recall the selflessness that embodies military service.

Memorial Day also honors the families of the fallen: the mother who hears her child's 21-gun salute; the husband or wife who receives a folded flag; the young son or daughter who knows mom or dad only from a photograph.

We share their grief and their loss, knowing that nothing we can say will suffice. They have laid their most costly sacrifice on the altar of freedom, and it is that sacrifice that we honor on Memorial Day.

With the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, our latest generation of warriors is engaged in a struggle no less critical to history than those of their predecessors. They come home from our conflicts bearing visible and invisible wounds or draped beneath the American flag.

We owe all our veterans, past and present, a debt of gratitude for the sacrifices they made in defense of liberty. To this end, we ask everyone to observe a minute of silence at 3 p.m. this Memorial Day as a Moment of Remembrance of our fallen heroes.

As director of the Veterans Administration Maryland Health Care System, I am proud of our employees and volunteers for the service they provide our nation's veterans. They are working daily to live up to Abraham Lincoln's promise "to care for him who has borne the battle."

And let's also remember our nation's service men and women this Memorial Day by calling the nearest VA facility to volunteer or visit.

Dennis H. Smith

The writer is director of the Veterans Administration Maryland Health Care System.

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