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“We cannot be sure of having something to live for unless we are willing to die for it.”

Memorial Day began with the General of the Grand Army of the Republic ordering one day set aside to remember the dead of both the Union and the Confederacy. The Civil War had recently ended with more than 600,000 dying for their country. On May 30, 1868 flowers were placed in Arlington Cemetery where thousands were buried during the Civil War. Today, graves in Arlington and around the county are adorned with flags and flowers.

It is intended as a way to honor the dead.

It should serve as a way to challenge the living to continue the fight.

My friends, let’s not take for granted today. It is not just a day off to barbeque. Nor is it merely the opening of pools around the country. It’s not simply the signpost that school is ending and summer beginning.

What has made all those things possible was the incredible, selfless service of generations of soldiers who sacrificed all for our freedom. It’s a fight that is hundreds of years old. It is a fight that continues today – just ask the more than 100,000 families that have a son, daughter, sister, brother, mom, or dad oversees. The fight continues.

So how do we properly memorialize the past and celebrate the present?

“You can shed tears that she is gone,
or you can smile because she has lived.
You can close your eyes and pray that she’ll come back,
or you can open your eyes and see all she’s left.
Your heart can be empty because you can’t see her,
or you can be full of the love you shared.
You can turn your back on tomorrow and live yesterday,
or you can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday.
You can remember her only that she is gone,
or you can cherish her memory and let it live on.
You can cry and close your mind,
be empty and turn your back.
Or you can do what she’d want:
smile, open your eyes, love and go on.”
David Harkins

My friends, the goal is that your life becomes a living memorial for those who gave everything. Smile. Open your eyes. Love. And fight on. There would be no greater living memorial than that.

John O’Leary,

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