Brig. Gen. Darren Werner, 13th ESC Commanding General

As Memorial Day approaches, Soldiers and their loved ones quickly recognize the impending arrival of the summer season. Although Memorial Day is an off-day for most, it holds a more impactful meaning beyond warm weather, Family gatherings and barbecues.

For me, Memorial Day was a day I always looked forward to. Being from Michigan the end of May was when we finally stopped getting snow and spring was finally here. Most importantly though, my memories are of my dad, a World War II veteran, would always put on his old Army uniform and march in the town’s Memorial Day Parade out to our town cemetery. On Memorial Day every year, our veterans made a point to stop to remember all of those who they served with but who did not return.

President Franklin Roosevelt once said, “Those who have long enjoyed such privileges as we enjoy, forget in time that men and women have died to win them.”

In 1868, Memorial Day was originally known as Decoration Day and was widely observed on May 30 to commemorate the sacrifices of Civil War Soldiers and to honor the military members the nation lost during the Civil War by decorating their gravesites.

In 1971, the Uniform Monday Holiday Act moved Memorial Day from May 30 to the last Monday in May, then in 2000, Congress established the National Moment of Remembrance on Memorial Day.

Often confused with Veterans Day, Memorial Day honors fallen service members while Veterans Day gives people the opportunity to publicly recognize those living military members. Memorial Day gives service members, and the community supporting them, the opportunity to pause and honor the military men and women who gave their lives in defense of our nation.

The Army and military remember, recognize and honor the ultimate sacrifice made by these service members. These brave men and women volunteered to leave the safety of their homes away from the comfort of their friends and loved ones to defend the rights and freedoms of this nation. We must continue to reflect on the meaning of Memorial Day to honor the legacy of those men and women who die while wearing the nation’s cloth.

Take this weekend to enjoy your Family, friends and loved ones. Use this time to recharge but never forget why we serve. Let’s not forget the men and women who gave all in defense of this nation. America owes a great debt of gratitude to their sacrifices. We must continue to care for the survivors and Families of our fallen. Let’s help these great patriots honor America’s heroes. This Memorial Day, take the opportunity to support the survivors and Families of our fallen. It is an opportunity we should all embrace.

As we honor our fallen service members this Memorial Day, also remember those serving. Those brave Soldiers who stand shoulder-to-shoulder in harm’s way fighting to keep us safe and are deployed globally defending our nation’s freedoms.

I hope each of you have a safe and enjoyable holiday weekend.