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Americans Asked to Honor Country's Fallen With Moment of Remembrance

By Sgt. 1st Class Doug Sample
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 22, 2003 – For 60 seconds at precisely 3 p.m. local time May 26, Americans around the world will engage in a moment of quiet remembrance and respect to those who have given their lives for the privilege of freedom.

During that brief time, except for a bugler sounding "Taps," Americans of every nationality are being urged to take a moment to reflect on the blessings of this country and to show gratitude by giving back to the nation, according to Carmella LaSpada. She is executive director for the White House Commission on the National Moment of Remembrance.

LaSpada said the "Moment," as it's called, is "really important to bring the country together. It is an act of national unity, and gives a sense of history, of citizenship and of the connectedness ... of coming together, which reminds us to reflect on the freedom that we have as Americans and of the debt that we owe those who died for that freedom.

"It's a pure moment, in that we are not hyphenated Americans, that we are all one, of one identity. In remembrance of those who died, they died for all of us," she added.

LaSpada said that those observing the Moment should simply stop what they are doing and pause for one minute of reflection. Another way to signify the remembrance is to turn on vehicle headlights when driving. If planning to visit a loved one's gravesite, do so at 3 p.m., and pause to reflect.

She also encourages Americans to listen to the commission's Memorial Day anthem, "On This Day." The song, debuting this year, is written by Charles Strouse, award-winning composer whose credits include the musicals "Annie" and "Bye Bye Birdie." The tune, composed especially for the National Moment of Remembrance, can be found at official Web site http://www.remember.gov.

LaSpada's work to promote the annual Memorial Day tribute began in 1996. She recalled asking a group of children on a tour of Washington what Memorial Day meant. The kids responded: "That's the day the pools open."

"It was an innocent response from the children," she said. "But it made me realize that Memorial Day had lost some of its meaning, that we need to remind our children of the sacrifices made for their freedom."

"I told the children that one of the reasons you are able go to the pool is because of the veterans who gave you the right to that freedom."

LaSpada continued her efforts to bring added recognition to the day. Finally on Dec. 28, 2000, Congress passed a bill to formally establish the White House commission. The first official Moment of Remembrance was held the next year.

Other observances the commission has worked to bring added meaning to include the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Veterans Day and Operation Grateful Nation, created to honor armed forces' families, especially those with deployed members.

LaSpada says the Moment is not meant to replace traditional Memorial Day observances. "As you participate in the Moment, you are helping reclaim Memorial Day for the noble and sacred reason for which it was intended - to honor those who died in service of our nation," she said.

For more information on the Moment of Remembrance activities or the White House Commission on Remembrance, go to http://www.remember.gov.

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