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Posts Tagged ‘Memorial Day’

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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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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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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I love the Pioneer Woman website. I often go there in search of yummy food, and I am never disappointed. (Love her Cauliflower Soup and Oven-Roasted Asparagus; 12 pounds to go till I can try her Best Chocolate Sheetcake. Ever.)

But today I was pleasantly surprised to learn Ree Drummond (PW) is also doing what she can to help military families. Check out her Photography page. She assigned her Flickr followers a homecoming photo theme, and the pics are real tearjerkers. What’s more, she’s donating a dollar to Operation Homefront for every comment left on the series of posts.

Thanks so much to everyone who took part in the assignment, and thanks so much to Ree for her generosity and patriotism.

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I love Fridays — don’t we all? But today is a really good one. It leads into Memorial Day, a holiday where we pay tribute to those who’ve lost their lives in service to our country.

It’s a sober occasion, but one where the nation briefly turns it attention to the sacrifices of our military families.

To recognize our brave men and women, we want you to give them a ShoutOut on Twitter. Tweet your loved one in uniform’s name and ran with the hashtag #OperationShoutOut. You’ll also be entered into a chance to win one of 10 Lexmark printers between today and June 5.

But it gets even better.

Throughout this hashtag compaign, Lexmark printers and Office Depot have promised to donate a printer to Operation Homefront for every Lexmark printer Office Depot sells, either online or at your local store. Their goal is to donate 4,000 printers. We’ll use the printers to keep military families connected through our Communications Devices program.

But we’ll also use those printers for fun giveaways on our OH Online Facebook page. Pop on over there and see how you can pick up a free printer. As always with our contests, you must be enrolled in DEERS or a recently transitioned wounded warrior/spouse. We reserve the right to award prizes as we choose.

Good luck, and have a safe and happy Memorial Day weekend.

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