Q: Why should Americans, especially younger generations, celebrate Memorial Day?
A: The end of the school year in Iowa typically falls right around Memorial Day. While it makes sense that school-age Iowans are ready to celebrate summer and enjoy a break from the classroom, it’s an important opportunity to reflect on the blessings of freedom too often taken for granted. More specifically, as Americans we are called to honor the ultimate sacrifice of the men and women in uniform who lost their lives in the line of duty. Memorial Day is a day of reverence and remembrance for the fallen heroes who gave their lives for freedom and liberty. We owe a debt of immeasurable gratitude for these patriots who served to protect and defend our national security and the sacred rights and responsibilities of self-government. America’s first patriots lost life and limb during the Revolutionary War more than 200 years ago to secure our nation’s independence. Members of the Armed Forces today who answer the call to serve continue their legacy by protecting our shores from terrorism, defending the pursuit of liberty and fighting for our freedoms in a free society. As Americans we are endowed with fundamental rights, including the right to speak and worship freely, peaceably assemble and petition the government for the redress of grievances. As an elected representative, I encourage Iowans to attend my annual county meetings and contact me with their ideas and concerns. Active dialogue is the essence of representative government. And freedom of the press serves as a fundamental check on government to keep the people’s business open and transparent. As a smaller share of Americans serve in the military or have a direct connection to a service member, it’s more important than ever to be mindful of their sacrifice for these enduring freedoms. Thanks to generations of patriots and heroes, America’s best days are yet to come. And it is our duty as a grateful nation to honor the memories of those who never returned home from duty, leaving behind loved ones and their fellow men and women in uniform.
Q: How can Iowans observe Memorial Day?
A: I encourage families to make it a priority to attend local community traditions, such as flag ceremonies and tributes at local cemeteries. Iowans also have a unique opportunity to pay tribute to our fallen hometown heroes by checking out the Freedom Rock Tour. Every May since 1999, an Iowa artist paints a new mural on the original Freedom Rock – a 12 foot tall boulder, weighing as much as 90 tons -- located in Adair County in southwest Iowa to honor our men and women in uniform. He has since made a commitment to custom paint a mural on a boulder in each of Iowa’s 99 counties. He’s on schedule to finish all 99 Freedom Rocks by 2023. Go to http://thefreedomrock.com to learn more. Iowans also may tune in to the national ceremony that takes place each year at Arlington National Cemetery with a ceremonial laying of the wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The somber tribute reminds us about the price of freedom and gives us the solemn opportunity to grieve with the families, loved ones and fellow service members left behind. The majestic display of nearly a quarter million flags at the tombstones of the fallen at Arlington National Cemetery is another meaningful tribute to the valor and bravery of those who gave their lives to secure the blessings of freedom. On Memorial Day, at 3 p.m. local time, Americans are encouraged to take a collective moment of gratitude for the profound contributions of their sacrifice. At this time, pause for a moment of reverence to reflect upon the nation’s heroes in uniform who answered the call to serve, but never returned home to enjoy the freedoms for which they fought and died. Thanks to their service and sacrifice, we live in a free and open society that promises the fruits of liberty, freedom and prosperity for generations yet to come. By all means, enjoy your family gatherings and celebrations at the campgrounds, pool or lake. At the same time, make sure to remember that Memorial Day affords all Americans from all walks of life the opportunity to pay our respects, honor the memory of the fallen and give thanks from a grateful nation for securing the blessings of freedom we enjoy each and every day.