By Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter
Tomorrow is Memorial Day. It feels like the start of summer. The days are warmer; the mud and snow are gone. We in New Hampshire hear the call of our lakes and mountains. We pack our cars and visit our favorite spots in our jewel of a state.
As we settle into this first summer weekend, it is easy to forget what Memorial Day is really about - and how we got here.
Memorial Day was first celebrated in the aftermath of the Civil War. It was a day to remember those who fought and died in the bloodiest and most divisive war ever fought on American soil.
In a true sense, Memorial Day is not a "holiday." Rather,it is - in the original meaning of the word - a "holyday," dedicated to the memory of those who have sacrificed for us. On this day, we honor those who have given their lives for their country - in World War II, Korea,Vietnam, the Gulf Wars, Afghanistan, and other conflicts.
Across the country, millions of flags will be unfurled. Millions of candles will be lit in remembrance. Rivers of tears will be shed for those who have died too soon.
This Memorial Day has special, painful meaning. We don't have tolook far into our past to find heroic sacrifice - we read about it in the papers every day. Just this month, over 70 US service members gave their lives in Iraq. In the past four years, over 3,400 made the ultimate sacrifice.
Today we will honor those men and women, just as we have honored those who fought in wars of the past. They served heroically under the most difficult of circumstances.
As we honor the memory of those who have fallen, let us also recognize the sacrifices of the living. Thousands of soldiers are returning home with serious injuries. They too are heroes and they deserve our greatest respect.
But they also deserve the resources they need. If we truly honor our soldiers and veterans, we must honor our commitments to them and to their families. President Lincoln summed up our nation's responsibilities beautifully in his Second Inaugural Address (1865):
"... to bind up the nation's wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan-to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations."
This Memorial Day, we must do more than just remember the fallen. We must dedicate ourselves to sharing their sacrifice. Let us find the moral courage to match their physical courage. Let us re-dedicate ourselves to the principles for which our country stands.