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Always remember those who sacrificed
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Monday was Memorial Day, originally called "Decoration Day." As I thought about this day of remembrance for those who have died in our nation's service, I recalled a scene from the movie, "Saving Private Ryan." It is about an Army general's reading of a letter written by President Abraham Lincoln. His letter was to a grieving mother, who had lost her sons during the war. President Lincoln's words say a lot about the reason for, and the nature of Memorial Day.

"Dear Madam: I have been shown in the files, that you are the mother of five sons who have died gloriously on the field of battle. I feel how weak and fruitless must be any words of mine which should attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming. But I cannot refrain from tendering to you the consolation that may be found in the thanks of the Republic they died to save. I pray that our heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement, and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom." - President Abraham Lincoln

Our nation's first official recognition of those who fought and died fighting for our freedom was on May 5, 1868. Before and since that time, scores of selfless men and women laid their lives on the line in the defense of our country. When I say the word "country," it means so much more than just a geographical area. It is about our values, the things we hold dear, like our constitution, the successes we have achieved throughout the years, the freedom of speech and expression, the freedom from governmental oppression, the ability to achieve prosperity limited only by an individual's capabilities and desire, and that we may continue as "one nation, under God."

It is only appropriate that we stop and take a moment from our busy lives to take stock of what others have done for us. The soldiers who died in defense of our country constitute the sole reason why we are still able to exist as we do today - as a democratic society; one that has abundant wealth, resources and security. Each war fought over the years constituted, at minimum, a threat to our values and way of life. Even as we stand here today, there are many threats from other countries, terrorists and organizations, wishing to bring us to our knees.

These same people who pose us threats also know that our country is made up of people who are brave, whose ideals and beliefs are made of iron, and that the soldiers who serve now are prepared to die for these causes.

For my part, I never take for granted the sacrifices that have been and are now being made by members of our armed forces. I am grateful to the spouses, parents, siblings, and children whose loved ones died for this country. The survivors have experienced unimaginable tragedy and are now dealing with endless grief.

Memorial Day is purely symbolic, and we cannot bring back those who gave their lives in the defense of ours. I am comforted by the knowledge that these lives were not given in vain, and that the memories of these brave individuals now occupy a special place in our hearts. There is no greater honor than to serve others; hence, to purposefully position oneself for the sacrifice of life in the defense of country, is the highest of all public service. I pray for the many lives that were lost while bravely serving our country, and for those who continue to serve. I will be forever grateful.

for the kind of life they have bestowed on me, my family and our community.