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Archive for the ‘Memorial Day’ Category

by John I. Pray, Jr., Brig Gen, USAF (Ret.). President & CEO of Operation Homefront.

From our Arlington office, it’s a short 15-minute walk to N. Marshall Place near an entrance to Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall. That’s where you can see over the brick wall into the northern section of Arlington National Cemetery, the final resting place for more than 400,000 military members, family members and others who have perished in the service of our great nation.

Section 27 is one of the oldest plots at Arlington National Cemetery.

Directly ahead is Section 27, where the first black combat soldiers of the Civil War are buried. Much further away is Section 60, the final resting place of those who made the ultimate sacrifice in Iraq and Afghanistan. Even further is Section 6, where my father and mother are buried.

While Memorial Day has become increasingly synonymous with the kickoff of summer, it is meant to be a day of remembrance for those who have “given the last full measure” in service to our country. Today, the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment, also known as The Old Guard, will place flags at over 228,000 headstones and 7,000 rows at the Columbarium to honor our fallen heroes.

Section 60, the final resting place of those who made the ultimate sacrifice in Iraq and Afghanistan.

At Operation Homefront, we have the unique ability to see firsthand the challenges that our service members and their families make to protect our way of life. We thank them for their service through our own service. Our promise – to build strong, stable and secure military families so they can thrive, not simply struggle to get by, in the communities they have worked so hard to protect — drives us all.

I would encourage all to consider The National Moment of Remembrance and to pause wherever where we are at 3 p.m. local time on Memorial Day for a minute of silence to remember and honor those who have died in service to our nation. It is an opportunity to reflect the true meaning of Memorial Day, and honor those who gave their tomorrows for our todays.

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Taking part in the Memorial Day tradition known as a “flags in” is a profound experience.

The second you step through the gates at Hampton National Cemetery in Virginia, you know you are on hallowed ground. You understand the quote “They hover as a cloud of witnesses above this Nation.”

And if you listen, you can hear them.

In the sound of the flag, waving in the breeze. The very present sentry standing solemn watch…

 You hear their souls.

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In the rows upon rows of more than 26,000 gravestones including 638 unknowns and 7 Medal of Honor recipients …

You hear their souls.

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In the silence of soldiers filing in to honor those who have come before them….

You hear their souls.

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In the voice of the mother patiently walking beside her toddler, perhaps too young to know the full meaning of Memorial Day, but who understands they’re here for something important…

You hear their souls.

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In the unity of community coming together to honor…

You hear their souls.

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And upon leaving when the task was done, you hear…

“Thank you for remembering.”

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At 3PM Monday, wherever you are, stop in silence and listen to the souls of those who gave the last full measure of devotion.

Answer with gratitude.

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M2H map updated 051116We asked you to help fill out this map with messages of thanks to our military and veterans. Shout out to all of the Colorado folks, who took the top spot of most messages from a single state. Can you help spread the word to entirely fill this map by the end of Military Appreciation Month? You can submit messages here or on your social using #Mission2Honor.

Here are some of our favorite #Mission2Honor messages from the last week.

Michael from Hawaii

Much Mahalo and Aloha from Hawaii! When we think about what Military Families stand for: sacrifice, dedication, loyalty, honor, discipline, integrity, strength, faith, love, and enduring commitment – we salute you and humbly submit our deepest gratitude for all that you do to support and protect our great nation! God bless you and God bless the United States of America!

Ashley from the United Kingdom

My husband is Active Duty Air Force so from our military family to yours, past and present, thank you for your sacrifice, your time you dedicate to protecting our freedoms and your love for our great country. Land of the free because of the brave.

Audrey from Washington

Sending love, admiration, and respect to my dad Julian M., and his group of Vietnam-era, Chamorro Veterans in Tacoma, WA! That tiny island has shed more native blood for this nation than any other state or territory. God bless you all for your sacrifice

Vickie from Indiana

From the Hoosier state I personally want to send you warm wishes and thoughts to wherever you are. You are thought and prayed for every day. From Indy Blue Star Mom

Katrina from New Mexico

As a military brat and a Gold Star Sibling, I want to say thank you for all you do to keep our families safe and happy!

Laura from Colorado

I cannot say thank you enough to all the brave men and women who are serving, have served or gave the ultimate sacrifice and died for our country. On behalf of a grateful nation, thank you for your service!!

Shiloh from Missouri

Thank you for all you have and are doing.

You are the reason for our freedoms. May God bless you and your families in all you do.

Thank you.

Angela

Thank you to all of you, for all the support you give! And to my brothers and sisters in arms, thank you for always standing beside me!

Malissa

Every day of my life, all Americans lives are affected by what you do. We are able to enjoy our lives and feel safe because of what you do. Your selfless dedication and commitment to the United States of American is appreciated more than words can ever express.

Please know that I will be forever grateful for my freedoms, because of your service.

Reverend Conger from Texas

Blessings and Peace from Texas

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Join us next week as we post more of our favorite #Mission2Honor messages showing support from a grateful nation. Learn more about out #Mission2Honor campaign at www.operationhomefront.net/mission2honor

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Memorial-Day-2015-pause-remember-operation-homefrontAll of us hold dear the memory of loved ones who have passed on. We likely take time, each year, to remember the loss, and do so with a mingled sense of both fondness and sadness. We do so to keep them with us in spirit.

Memorial Day is special as we, as a nation, have the opportunity to take a moment to remember and reflect upon the loss of those who have had a profound impact on preserving the freedoms we enjoy daily. By honoring their memories, we sustain the spirit these fallen heroes shared with us.

My father served in World War II, and was one of the thousands of American and Filipino troops captured when the U.S. surrendered the Bataan Peninsula. He survived the death march, and was a prisoner of war for three and a half years. He never spoke much of his time in captivity, but it was clear that those who were lost during this difficult period came home with him in spirit. Years later, during my own service, I stood on the tarmac at Dover AFB to honor those who were making the final journey home and knew I was also bringing home loved ones in spirit.

As we get ready to enjoy an extended holiday weekend, all Americans can take part in bringing those we have lost in our nation’s service home in spirit by joining in the national moment of remembrance that takes place at 3 p.m. local time on Monday afternoon. Let us keep them with us in spirit.

With honor and in service to all,

John I Pray, Jr.

President and CEO, Operation Homefront

 

 

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By Jim Knotts, president and CEO, Operation Homefront

cemetery-operation-homefront-memorial-dayLast month, many of you might have seen the news headlines that March of this year was the first time since February 2003 that an American service member wasn’t killed in Iraq or Afghanistan. It’s a sobering statistic and the reality for a nation at war for more than 13 years. As Memorial Day weekend arrives, we’re grateful for the tremendous sacrifice of those who’ve given their lives in defense of freedom, and hopeful that their sacrifices will continue to be instructive so that future generations may avoid being sent into harm’s way.

In recent times, a good deal has been made over whether or not Americans think about the meaning of this holiday weekend as anything other than a three-day weekend, or take time to reflect on what service to country means. Not surprising, of course, given that less than one percent serve their country in uniform. Congress has even considered changing the holiday from the last Monday in May to its historical founding of May 30, as a way to “force” a reminder to everyone about the significance of the day. Yet I believe – and our organization is a testament to it – that Americans are conscious of the sacrifices made, and are able to live their lives in a way that allows them to enjoy the freedoms of life in this country thanks to the selfless sacrifice of others. One of those freedoms is the right to thoroughly enjoy the unofficial start of summer and the Memorial Day holiday weekend. We shouldn’t begrudge anyone for living the American life to its fullest, but we can encourage everyone to take time to reflect on how that life is protected and made possible.

Arlington National CemeteryFor those of us in the Washington, D.C. area, so rich with history, it’s not hard to seek out a place to reflect on the meaning of Memorial Day, and there’s no more appropriate place than Arlington National Cemetery. If you’ve been, undoubtedly you visited Arlington House, The Robert E. Lee Memorial. This 19th century mansion was never envisioned to be surrounded by more than 250,000 graves as part of a national cemetery, and was initially constructed as testament to George Washington by his heirs. One of those descendants, Mary Anna Randolph Custis, inherited the home at the time of her parents’ passing, and she eventually married a West Point graduate named Robert E. Lee. While Lee considered Arlington House his home for 30 years, he never owned it. And when he resigned his commission to join the Confederacy, he would never see the home again, after the government claimed it for unpaid taxes. In 1864, Arlington National Cemetery was established, and by direction of the Army Quartermaster General, graves were placed as close as possible to the home to render it “uninhabitable” should the Lee family ever want to return. This, you might say, was an ever present reminder for General Lee on the magnitude and consequence of war.

So while none of us find ourselves in General Lee’s place 150 years ago, we are very cognizant of the fact that our way of life has stood the test of time – including a Civil War – thanks to those who have worn the uniform and fought for our country. We are forever indebted, and grateful for their sacrifice.

I wish you all a fantastic Memorial Day weekend, and I know you’ll reflect on the meaning of the day while enjoying time off with family and friends, celebrating the American way of life that we all enjoy.

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Let no vandalism of avarice or neglect, no ravages of time, testify to the present or to the coming generations, that we have forgotten, as a people, the cost of a free and undivided Republic. — John A. Logan

The call for help went out Wednesday morning.

“There’s a call for help from hallowed ground – the 28,000 graves of Hampton Roads’ national veterans cemetery. Last year’s Memorial Day – the first since the Army left nearby Fort Monroe – didn’t go so well at our little Arlington.

For the first time in anyone’s memory, there weren’t enough volunteers to carry out a traditional tribute: the placement of a small American flag at each grave marker for the holiday.”

The word spread, quickly, through the news media and all over social networks.  And as dawn rose on Friday, that call was answered.

“Not on our watch.”

So many came out to honor those that gave the full measure of devotion to our great nation, that traffic resembled that you would normally see at a concert or sporting event.  Community groups, soldiers, sailors, airmen, individuals young and old, quietly walked among the neat rows, arms full of flags, placing one in front of each grave marker.  The message, powerful.

“We will not forget”

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And so, this year, 28000 graves were honored in less than one hour.  One hour in which the gratitude of Americans, too often unexpressed and often thought lost, was given voice anew.  And the meaning of Memorial Day, restored.

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“They fell, but o’er their glorious grave. Floats free the banner of the cause they died to save.” — Francis Marion Crawford

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This year, the National Cemetery Administration of the US Department of Veterans Affairs will host 118 Memorial Day ceremonies. A listing of all national cemeteries holding a ceremony, to include the date and time, is on their website at http://www.cem.va.gov/cem/cems/2013_Memorial_Day_Ceremonies.asp.

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