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Gates Urges Participation in Memorial Day

By American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 22, 2009 - In his annual Memorial Day message to servicemembers worldwide, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates urges the nation's men and women in uniform to observe a moment of silence on the holiday to honor their fallen comrades.

Here is the secretary’s message:

“On May 5, 1868, General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, asked that America remember those lost in the Civil War by ‘gather[ing] around their sacred remains’ to ‘garland the passionless mounds … with choicest flowers’ and ‘raise above them the dear old flag they saved.’

“Since then, we have set aside one day each year to honor all those who have died in service to our country. Across the United States, military support groups, veterans associations, and patriots mount public tribute to those who served and sacrificed. By honoring our men and women in uniform with events like this, groups such as the American Veterans Center keep alive the memory of those who paid the ultimate price.

“Some wear a red poppy, in the spirit of the poet Moina Michael, who wrote that that flower “grows on fields where valor led.” Others continue to adorn graves with flowers and candles. And each year, the soldiers of “The Old Guard” place small American flags at each Arlington National Cemetery gravestone and patrol around the clock during Memorial Day weekend to ensure that each flag remains standing.

“At 3 p.m., your local time, on Monday, May 25, 2009, I would encourage you to join millions of your fellow Americans in a moment of silence to remember our fallen heroes.

“It is important to think of the fallen on this day, but we should also keep in mind all of our servicemen and women throughout the year. They and their families continue to sacrifice for our country and deserve our recognition and support. We should heed the advice of General Logan, who wrote: ‘Let no neglect, no ravages of time, testify to the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten as a people the cost of a free and undivided republic.’”

Robert M. Gates
Secretary of Defense