Each year, Americans all over the country celebrate Memorial Day — typically with cook-outs and pool parties and time with family and friends. All too often, these celebrations do not include honoring the memory and sacrifice of brave women and men who have lost their lives in defense of our country. Last year’s festivities were very different for many of us, with friends and family perhaps not feeling as comfortable gathering as they had in years past. As Georgians begin to move forward after facing a challenging prior eighteen months, I am sure that most events will be much closer to normal as people look forward to summer!
Memorial Day has been celebrated, in some form, since right after the Civil War. Originally called “Decoration Day,” communities across the country honored fallen soldiers lost in the Civil War by decorating their graves with flowers and flags.
The tradition continued, and after World War I, it was expanded to include those lost in all American wars.
A little-known element of Memorial Day is the National Moment of Remembrance. Held annually at 3:00 PM on Memorial Day, the National Moment of Remembrance encourages all Americans to pause wherever they are to honor the memory and legacy of those who lost their lives serving their nation. This year, I would like to encourage you to take a moment with your families and friends, whether it is at 3:00 PM on Memorial Day or another time, to think about the lives lost to defend the freedoms that we all enjoy.
Say a prayer for the families of those who have lost their lives. And say a prayer as well for those currently serving and those who find other ways to protect and serve our communities and us: police officers, other first responders, and medical professionals of all kinds. The past eighteen months have been uniquely challenging for everyone, but perhaps none more than these groups.
Keep these words from President John F. Kennedy in mind: “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words but to live by them.”
To best show our appreciation for those who have made the ultimate sacrifice, we should seek to uphold the values for which their lives were cut short. Honoring the values that make our country unique and sharing those with future generations is the most significant way to respect the memories of those we have lost. They have allowed us to live in a peaceful and free society, and we should always honor their sacrifices.
Another vital way to honor the memories of those we have lost is to honor those who have served our country with honor and remain with us. For instance, Mr. James Sapp recently celebrated his 99th birthday. Mr. Sapp bravely served in World War II as a paratrooper, losing many friends along the way. Thank you, Mr. Sapp, for your courage and bravery!
I am sure that you all look forward to spending more time with your families and friends this summer. As you do so, please do not hesitate to call (404.656.5052), e-mail, or participate on Facebook to share your thoughts and concerns. It is an honor to represent you in the General Assembly, and I look forward to seeing you soon.
Jon Burns represents District 159 in the Georgia General Assembly, where he serves as the House majority leader.