The beginning of this Memorial Day weekend will find me at the national cemetery in Canton, just as I have been there in each of the six years since it opened. One of my sons, who will be home on leave from the Navy, will be with me. From the parking area, as you come up to the crest of the hill, there is a stone wall bearing the symbols of all the branches of armed service on it – a wall as solid and steadfast as the memories of those who now occupy the ground around it. There are a lot of North Georgia veterans buried there.
That first year, the park was wide open with one small section in which the veterans were buried. In the third year, my master sergeant was buried there after he died in a motorcycle accident. His section is now full, and the cemetery grows by those who have given all. The national cemetery in Canton is a reminder of why freedom is not free. It reminds us that you are never done paying for freedom.
Not all veterans are buried in national cemeteries. One member of my family is still with the U.S.S. Arizona, as he went down with the ship in Pearl Harbor. My family’s history is dedicated to service. There is going to come a time, sooner or later, that I know one of my children who is serving, or even myself, will be a permanent resident in that cemetery. I should hope no one in the next generation will forget, that they will carry the torch and remember our efforts to serve the Constitution, and our examples for our family to follow – and they will set an example for their own families.
Memorial Day is also a remembrance of those who are currently serving, putting their lives on the line every day, ensuring that our flag does not fall. Every day I work with service members, on and off duty. Our citizen soldiers are here in our communities. That morning we will remember those who have given all, as well as those who walk among us today. We remember and honor the sacrifice they are still making.
As I serve as the Public Affairs officer for the unit that day, I will be walking among the crowds and thanking the individuals and family members. Last year, I met several widowed women under the age of 25 with children, as well as those who had been married for years. I met supporters, Patriot Riders, and people that understand that tradition is important. And by honoring that tradition, we remind each generation of the sacrifices from the previous generation.
We will remember the examples of service of these families that are dedicated to the Constitution and the meaning of freedom. My son and I will remember our relatives that have passed before us and honor them this day, as we honor every veteran that has served.
You do not need to have a family member buried in the national cemetery to come to Canton next Saturday morning – this recognition is open to the public. I invite you to join us in the remembrance of those who have served and sacrificed.