Many people confuse Memorial Day and Veterans Day. Memorial Day is a day set aside to honor and remember our military personnel who paid the ultimate sacrifice - that of giving their life in service to our country, both those who died in battle or as a result of wounds sustained in battle. Veterans Day is a day to honor, remember and thank all military personnel; who served our country either living or deceased.
Since the inception of Memorial Day, more than 100 years ago in May, 1868, many words have been spoken on behalf of military members who fought and died, so that others could live free.
This year, we once again try to compose fitting words to suitably honor absent comrades. We struggle to find the right words that appropriately convey our gratitude and appreciation, for the gift of freedom they have given us.
In our hearts we know that our missing friends and comrades are deserving of every honor and acknowledgment a grateful nation can provide. But of all the things we can do, the very least is to hold the memory of them close and promise that they will never be forgotten.
Our nation endures because it has always been home to men and women who are willing to give their all and if needed lay down their very lives to preserve and protect this land of the free that we all love.
Because of this, we gather today across this nation, united in remembrance of these defenders of our republic who gave their life for us.
But as in the past, even though we mourn for those who have been lost, there comes a need to move forward. Although wounded as each period of war occurs in our nation's history, we shall heal. As we mend, we needn't look back and think about what might have been, but we must look to the future and think of what is yet to be.
Throughout our nation's history, we have been blessed to have persons who were genuinely committed to something larger than themselves - people who understood duty for the greater good.
The noble defenders of our nation have performed the highest form of public service. The men and women serving in today's military continue that tradition of service, and for that we are deeply grateful.
Those who are in today's military face a world full of change and challenge. As they are thrust into periods of war and conflict, we must care for them and their families. We have an obligation to do so. For us to do anything less would diminish and cheapen the sacrifice of the more than 1 million American patriots who have died in defense of their country.
They are the reason we as a nation are unique among all of the nations of the world. Our friends and comrades, the defenders of our nation, understood the price of freedom. With courage and conviction, they did what was demanded. They answered the call.
There is no better way to honor those who have done more than you or I - those who did more than any of us - than to capture the essence of what they have given and draw upon it to strengthen our spirit as a nation.
Many people from across the world stand united in remembrance today. We speak in one voice with shared admiration and respect ... and in thanks. The freedoms we enjoy today were purchased at the expense of human life. The sum total of who we are as a nation and as a people is mirrored in their sacrifices.
Walk the hollowed ground amongst the final resting places of our nations best and brightest, and you will come to understand that every grave, every marker bears a name. Every name represents a person who was loved by someone ... and who loved someone in return ... a person with hopes and dreams.
We stand united in our grief, and we grieve alongside their loved ones and share equally in their sense of loss. Gone from someone's life are sons and daughters, husbands and wives, sisters and brothers. Everyday heroes, they loved their families, their friends and their country. This is a day to cherish their memory an to celebrate the courage and deeds of al veterans who have served and sacrificed for our nation.
Let us give thanks everyday of our lives for them.
We were fortunate to have been able to know them, even if it were only for a blessed brief and shining moment. We are connected by spirit and treasured memories of departed friends. As well, they have rightfully earned our gratitude, our respect and a place of honor among us. And we will work to instill and keep their honor, for that is how honor is kept.
In closing, as we pay tribute to all military members who gave their life in service to our nation, let us determine today, that as long as one American remains alive the heroic deeds of all who died in the defense of our country shall never be forgotten.
Thanks you for being here today, and God Bless America.
Steve Leach is the Senior Vice Commander of the Manchester Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6471.