One hundred fifty-three years ago Southern Illinois’ own, General John A. Logan, issued General Order No. 11, which called for a national day of remembrance to honor the veterans who perished during the Civil War. Though it was not formally established until 1938 – 70 years later - General Logan’s historic order served as the basis for what is now Memorial Day.
General Logan was a native son of Southern Illinois, and the 12th Congressional District specifically. In fact, Murphysboro, and the home I grew up in, were built on land originally owned by the Logan family. Before and after General Logan served in uniform, he was elected to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives and, later on, the U.S. Senate. I think of him and the example he set often, but never more so than now, as I commemorate my first Memorial Day as the lead Republican on the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee.
Millions of men and women have served our great nation since its founding. From the shot heard round the world, to the humid trenches of Vietnam, to the scorching desert of Afghanistan, to right here in Southern Illinois, brave Americans raise their right hand in service to the land we love every single day. Tragically, too many of these warriors return home in a casket draped in the Stars and Stripes they fought to defend. Some have never returned home at all.
Memorial Day is when we honor and remember the fallen. It is when we recommit to ensuring their memories are not forgotten and the continued sacrifices of their families are not unnoticed. It is also when we rededicate ourselves to the values of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” for which these veterans gave their lives.
Veterans come from every age, race, gender, background, creed, and community. The values they died for are not Republican or Democrat; they are American. Those values have stood the test of time, inspired developing countries, and help us work even now towards a more perfect union. The hallowed grounds of the cemeteries where America’s fallen heroes are laid to rest are stark reminders of the burdens of war. It is there, where you may see a young child kneeling at their parent’s grave, or a grieving spouse receiving a folded flag from a stoic soldier, where the weight of the oath our servicemembers take is truly felt. As a proud Marine Corps veteran, the son of a Korean War veteran, the father and grandfather of Marines, and the ranking member on the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, there is nothing I take more seriously than that.
As you are spending time with your family, friends, and neighbors this Memorial Day, please take a moment to remember the true purpose of this sacred day and spare a thought for the fallen heroes who are no longer with us and the loved ones they left behind. I encourage you to enjoy this day, but do not forget the immeasurable sacrifice America’s fallen heroes made so that we can be free. May their loss never be forgotten. May it inspire us to lead lives worthy of their sacrifice.
U.S. Rep. Mike Bost is a ranking member of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. He has represented the 12 counties of Illinois’ 12th District in the U.S. House of Representatives since 2015. Prior to Congress, Rep. Bost served in the U.S. military, and as a first responder, local businessman and state representative.