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Memorial Day Message

Statement by Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates, Washington, DC, Monday, May 31, 2010

 Memorial Day officially began in 1868 when General John Logan, the commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, asked his countrymen to take a particular day in May to remember those lost in the Civil War.  And this is true, but it’s not the whole truth.  When Logan proclaimed Memorial Day, he was simply recognizing a tradition that had already been taking place in communities across the country.  No one needed to prompt those people to remember their war dead.  The impulse to honor those who have died to protect us is basic to our make-up as human beings, a tradition older than civilization itself.

 I see that noble impulse alive and well today;

  • Alive in the soldiers of “The Old Guard”, standing watch over the tomb of the unknown soldier, and those others who this weekend place American flags at each Arlington gravestone;
  • Alive in the military support groups, veterans associations, and others organizing memorial events across the nation, and;
  •  Alive in every American who takes a moment on 3 p.m. on Monday, May 31, 2010, to join me in a moment of silence to remember this nation’s fallen.

The men and women we remember today purchased with their blood the freedom and opportunities enjoyed by the generations that followed them.  The valor of the men and women who now serve, which we must also remember and honor today, preserves and strengthens for us the abiding conviction that this nation and its values will endure.

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