Image courtesy: Pfc. David Hauk, U.S. Army. Kandahar, Afghanistan, November 12, 2009

Monday, May 31, 2010

Day of gratitude dawns

Thanks to thousands of volunteers, American flags are proudly flying in front of every tombstone in our National Cemeteries at the dawn of this special day. Every fallen servicemember buried in these hallowed grounds earned the honor of the American flag by doing everything in their power to protect it.

Memorial Day 2010 is upon us. Millions are solemnly saluting the men and women who have laid down their lives for freedom since the birth of our great nation. With valiant troops dying almost daily in America's ongoing war against terrorism, the meaning of this day should particularly penetrate the heart of a generation that was called to fight when America was attacked on September 11, 2001.

Sunday night, I watched the live HD telecast of the 2010 National Memorial Day Concert in Washington. While the event was both moving and inspirational, it was particularly refreshing to see so much unity on the steps of the U.S. Capitol, which has been plagued by so much political polarization over the past year. On this evening, prominent republicans, democrats, and independents came together to show that our troops are far more important than partisan bickering. After all, they sacrifice overseas to give us our freedom to disagree at home.

Less than 24 hours after actors Gary Sinise and Joe Mantegna hosted the event, the military supporting stars are coming together again for Monday's 2010 National Memorial Day Parade. The festivities start just before 2:00 p.m. eastern time on Constitution Avenue between 7th and 17th Streets NW in the nation's capital. The American Veterans Center, which founded and organized this special parade beginning in 2005, should be saluted for recognizing the need for this large tribute for our fallen heroes, particularly during wartime. You can watch the parade live on The Military Channel on cable and satellite, and servicemembers around the world can tune in on The Pentagon Channel.

When I wake up in the morning, I will pause to look at a small flag given to me at the procession to honor fallen 1st Lt. Robert Collins on April 15, 2010, in Tyrone, Georgia. As I carry it with me to a local Memorial Day ceremony in the afternoon, I hope I have the opportunity to tell a child about a young man who selflessly swore to protect everything the American flag represents. For 1st Lt. Collins and his brothers in arms, I bow my head with eternal appreciation. To truly understand what they died for, their stories must be told.

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