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Opinion | Mike Bost: Remember the real reason for Memorial Day

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Memorial Day is a time to honor the men and women in uniform who made the ultimate sacrifice for our nation. It may surprise you to hear that Memorial Day traces back to a Southern Illinois hero. In 1868, Gen. John A. Logan called for a day for Americans to decorate the graves of soldiers who gave their lives in the Civil War. The legacy of Gen. Logan’s request lives on throughout America today as we pay respect to our nation’s fallen heroes.

I am also reminded of their selfless sacrifices every time I come to work in Congress on behalf of our veterans and the fallen. My greatest privilege during my time in Congress has been chairing the Veterans’ Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs Subcommittee. This role has provided me with the opportunity to ensure that all of our fallen heroes are taken care of when they are laid to rest.

From Arlington National Cemetery to the graves at Normandy to the sacred burial places in Southern Illinois, our nation owes a great debt to those who paved the path for freedom. The duty to maintain these hollowed monuments is not one that I take lightly and has provided extra meaning to this Memorial Day for me. This past year, I was honored to visit Arlington National Cemetery and ensure our nation’s fallen are properly cared for. It is a humbling feeling to know that so many Marines, Sailors, Soldiers, Airmen and Mariners have paid the ultimate price.

We are also reminded this Memorial Day of the families who have paid a heavy price. It is vitally important that we remember that the cost of war is not just paid by the lives lost, but also by the loved ones of the fallen. As a Marine and the father of Marine, I understand that it’s not just our young men and women who are affected, but it is also parents, husbands, wives, sons and daughters that have been asked to make sacrifices.

As we gather with family and friends, let us take a moment to remember the real reason for Memorial Day. Remember that each day we are given in this great nation is a gift from a fallen soldier. As Gen. Logan said on the first Memorial Day, “Let us gather around their sacred remains…let us raise above them the dear old flag they saved from dishonor; let us in this solemn presence renew our pledges to aid and assist those whom they have left among us as sacred charges upon the Nation's gratitude.”

Let us all remember what they gave and, more importantly, why they gave that last, full measure of devotion. Through their strength, courage, and dedication to duty, these brave Americans preserved our nation that we all hold dear. My prayers are with the family of those fallen and I will continue to work to honor them every day in Congress.

U.S. Rep. Mike Bost has represented the 12 counties of Illinois’ 12th District in the U.S. House of Representatives since 2015. Prior to Congress, Representative Bost served in U.S. military, as a first responder, a local job creator, and a state representative.

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