At the same time, it's not lost on me why we have this time off: It was Memorial Day. Originally beginning as Decoration Day shortly after the Civil War ended, it is a day where we honor those men and women who paid the ultimate price for freedom.
I was fortunate to observe Memorial Day on Sunday morning with the Ride of the Patriots. Kicking off Rolling Thunder, this annual Fairfax City tradition starts off with a parade from Captain Pell's, going down Fairfax Boulevard and turning into Patriot Harley-Davidson. Hearing those engines roar like thunder was, as they say, like hearing the sound of freedom. After some brief remarks, we watched - and heard - the thousands upon thousands of men and women who got on their bikes (most of them Harley's), strapped on their helmets and made their way to the Pentagon and into Washington, D.C. to honor our fallen heroes.
Today I had the honor of giving remarks at the Ancient Order of the Hibernians' annual Memorial Day observance of the Civil War Battle of Ox Hill (also known as the Battle of Chantilly). Girl and Boy Scouts from St. Leo the Great Catholic Church, including my daughter Sadie, were on hand for the ceremony with Sadie and another Girl Scout laying a wreath at the memorials of two fallen Union soldiers.
The ceremony wasn't just about this one particular battle, which had significant meaning for both the North and the South as a marker of sorts as both sides bore in for a long war. Instead it was about how we Americans need to always remember that those who perish in battle do not die in vain. In the Civil War each side thought they were right and that their cause was noble and just. Similarly today while we may disagree with the decision to go to war or engage in conflict, we must remember that it is the soldier, sailor, airman/airwoman and Marine who are carrying out a mission - and carrying out their sworn duty.
And we must remember, too, the thousands of men and women who are still in harm's way as well as those coming home from Afghanistan and Iraq. We must honor these living veterans who may have saw their comrades die while doing their duty. We need to support them, too, welcoming them with open arms back to civilian life by helping them secure a job after they've left the service, making a financial donation to a veterans' organization or any other way we can make sure they know we value their service - not just when they are overseas but then they are home.
The fact of the matter is that Memorial Day, while officially observed on one day during the year, is a day that needs to be observed everyday. Not with sales, BBQs or parades, but doing right by our men and women who wear the uniform. They deserve our respect every day of the year. They've put their lives on the line - with some giving all. It's the least we can do.