Each year, Memorial Day is a solemn occasion to remember the Americans we have lost in service to the nation.
This Memorial Day is a difficult but proud time for Gayle and me as our son, a captain in the Air Force, prepares for deployment to Afghanistan. Like many American families with loved ones in the military, we celebrate today not only by reflecting on the past but also by renewing our commitment to those who have served and are currently serving.
As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee in Congress, I have a direct role in shaping America’s military future with the National Defense Authorization Act, which was approved by the committee only days ago. The Fiscal Year 2015 bill, which passed with overwhelming support in committee, represents a bipartisan commitment to providing our troops with the best resources and training available, from state-of-the-art amphibious ships to improved mental health screenings.
The same bipartisan commitment is needed in response to recent allegations of mismanagement and negligence at Veterans Affairs Medical Centers across the country – a scandal sparked by the tragic deaths of at least 40 veterans waiting for care in Phoenix. Memorial Day is a poignant reminder of the cost that sometimes comes with military service. Many Mississippians have fought and died for the cause of liberty, joining a powerful legacy of American heroes.
Memorial Day may be a time of remembrance, but it also calls us to be mindful of the future of America’s military tradition and strength.
On Memorial Day 2014, I join a grateful nation in paying homage to the men and women of our Armed Forces who have given their lives to defend this nation.
The people of Mississippi are proud and supportive of those in military service. On Memorial Day, citizens all across our state join other Americans to remember, honor and say a prayer of thanksgiving for those who gave their lives in service to their country. We remember and comfort their families, who mourn the loss of loved ones. We will enjoy the fellowship of our friends and neighbors with whom we enjoy the liberty that has been so preciously guarded by the fallen.
The national day of commemoration that we observe today evolved from a practice first started in the aftermath of the Civil War. In April 1866, citizens of Columbus, Mississippi, started what became “Decoration Day,” time set aside to decorate the graves of Confederate and Union soldiers alike. That tradition of honoring all those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice continues to this day. It is the right thing to do.
While we naturally look back to battles now consigned to history, we will also honor those brave men and women who, in more recent times, have died for their country. This Memorial Day 2014, my state will remember Army Specialist Terry K.D. Gordon of Shubuta, Mississippi, who lost his life in a helicopter accident in Now Bahar, Afghanistan, on Dec. 18, 2013. We will mourn his loss.
This Memorial Day should also prompt us to recommit ourselves to meeting our obligations to the men and women who take up arms to protect this great nation. The serious problems that surround the delivery of benefits and services we owe to our veterans are unacceptable.
As I observe Memorial Day and honor those who have given their lives to their country, I will also be mindful of our commitment to protect and support veterans and their families.
Roger Wicker and Thad Cochran are Mississippi’s U.S. Senators.