Lavine Honors the Lives Lost Defending Our Country
During the first national celebration of Memorial Day on May 30, 1868, at Arlington National Cemetery, then-Congressman and future president James A. Garfield spoke poignant words: “If silence is ever golden, it must be here beside the graves of 15,000 men, whose lives were more significant than speech, and whose death was a poem, the music of which can never be sung … For love of country they accepted death, and thus resolved all doubts, and made immortal their patriotism and their virtue.”1
Five years later, in 1873, New York was the first state to make Memorial Day a holiday.2 Today, it’s still celebrated at Arlington National Cemetery, with a small American flag placed on each soldier’s grave and a wreath laid at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.3 But as we partake in our own celebrations here at home, attending barbecues with family and friends and lining up on the sidewalk for local parades, we must not forget what the holiday actually represents or overlook the hard-fought battles that helped secure this nation’s principles. From our early foundations to the present, servicemen and servicewomen work day in and day out to protect our rights, values and the American way of life.
Here in New York State, there are over 800,000 veterans who served as far back as World War II.4 While these brave men and women survived the harrowing circumstances of war and service, they had to leave behind fellow soldiers lost on the battlefield whose families sadly never got the chance to welcome them home. Memorial Day honors those courageous fallen soldiers and the immeasurable sacrifices they made to keep us safe.