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Recall the real story behind Memorial Day

  • Published
  • By Gen. Donald Hoffman
  • Commander, Air Force Materiel Command
More than 1.3 million Americans have fought and died on behalf of our country during the past 233 years. Except for Afghanistan and Iraq, those wars and conflicts have receded into the pages of history books.  But our country was not built on history books. It was built on the backs of men and women who believed in the fundamental principles of freedom, principles for which they were willing to put their lives on the line.

I was recently TDY in Europe and had the opportunity to visit the American Cemetery at St. Mihiel, France. Buried there are 4,153 Americans who gave their lives defending the freedom of others. It is just one of many cemeteries around the world where we honor those who have made the ultimate sacrifice.

On Memorial Day, we owe these people more than a day off of work, a backyard barbecue or a day at the water park. I plan to stop wherever I am and whatever I'm doing on Memorial Day at 3 p.m. for the National Moment of Remembrance. I hope you will too. Take a moment to reflect on the sacrifices made and the lives lost in the name of freedom.

Our history is full of stories of ordinary people who displayed extraordinary heroism. No doubt our future holds more amazing stories of heartache and heroism. Some of those stories are playing out now in current conflicts around the world. These are stories that bind us together, as one, under the Stars and Stripes of the United States of America. They're the stories of real people whose loved ones suffered and mourned. Let us never forget to honor them all.