US Sen. Steve Daines on Memorial Day

Freedom. It’s what makes America the greatest country on earth. It’s what drove people to board boats for long voyages, cross stormy seas and enter a strange land with few possessions in hand. It’s what mankind has prayed for, fought for and died for across human history. Freedom is what makes America unique.

Our forefathers secured freedom for us long ago, and generations after have taken up the cause to defend freedom from all enemies at great cost. Each year, we set aside a day to honor those who gave their lives to protect our freedom. We remember the men and women who left their families behind, who placed country over self, who truly are American heroes.

This tradition began in 1868, when General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, declared May 30th to be “Decoration Day” — a day to remember American soldiers who lost their lives during the Civil War. In his words, the purpose of the day was to decorate the graves of soldiers whose bodies lie in “almost every city, village and hamlet churchyard in the land.” Nearly 150 years later, though the name has changed, the message of remembrance and honor has stayed the same. In every corner of our nation, Memorial Day celebrates all American men and women, across conflicts, who gave their lives for our country.

Memorial Day is oftentimes a day we picnic, attend parades, spend time with family and enjoy time in the Montana outdoors. This Memorial Day, I too, will be spending time with my family, but it’s important to remember the real meaning of Memorial Day. As a fifth-generation Montanan, and son of a Marine, I have been surrounded by men and women who have made sacrifices for our country and have always been reminded to honor those who died in combat.

The principles of commitment, persistence, and devotion that members of our military share deserve our utmost respect. What an amazing thing it is, to know that there are American men and women, stationed all over the world, who are willing to lay down their lives on yours and my behalf — and so many of them have done exactly that.

Our military remains the strongest and most capable the world has ever seen. Freedom in America has continued to be secured for generations since our founding, but at a very high price. In many homes this year, there will be empty seats at family picnics. Families will decorate the graves of spouses, parents, children and friends. We are grateful for these men and women who gave it all and we are thankful for their families’ sacrifices as well. This Memorial Day, I hope you will join me in remembering those who paid the ultimate price to secure the freedoms we enjoy each day.