Thiele: On Memorial Day, Let Us Pay Tribute to Our Fallen Heroes

As the summer season approaches and East End families get ready to attend Memorial Day parties or barbecues, it’s important that we remember what this holiday truly stands for. Memorial Day is so much more than a day off from work or an unofficial kickoff to summer, it’s a day when the whole nation comes together to remember the brave men and women who paid the ultimate sacrifice fighting for our freedom.

Almost 150 years ago, New York State played host to our nation’s first Memorial Day celebration. During the spring of 1866, families in the village of Waterloo came together to honor fallen soldiers, placing flowers on their graves, holding remembrance ceremonies and lowering flags to half staff. This year will be no different, as celebrations across the nation will be carried out in much the same way we did over a century ago. Since the first Memorial Day celebration, our nation has been involved in many difficult wars and lost more heroes for whom we need to pause and show our gratitude.

There are still thousands of American soldiers abroad who put their lives at stake every day for us. As we continue the process of ending the war in Afghanistan and bringing our soldiers home, we must not forget the bravery of those still there, along with those on duty throughout America and the world, and the ones we’ve lost along the way.

This Memorial Day, my thoughts will go Lance Corporal Jordan Haerter killed in Iraq on April 22, 2008, and Lieutenant Joe Thienert killed in Afghanistan on June 4, 2010 and of course, to their families. Their names now adorn community landmarks in their hometowns as a tangible reminder of a loss we all share. Just as real is the memory of their sacrifice that is emblazoned on the hearts of every one of us that knew them.

While the unimaginable grief of losing a loved one can never be measured, their families should know that they were not lost in vain. Not only have these brave soldiers left their mark on their families, they’ve left a mark on our nation. They will forever be remembered and memorialized for their bravery, their allegiance and their sacrifice. Let’s use this Memorial Day to honor these heroes and their dedication to our country.

The men and women in uniform – the heroes who fight across the world to defend our freedom – are an inspiration to us all. I remain dedicated to honoring and preserving the memory of those who have been killed in action and will do everything I can to ensure the best for our troops and their families, while at home and abroad.