Legislative Update - May 27th, 2020
On Monday this week, our nation paid tribute to those men and women in uniform who gave all they had to preserve freedom here and around the world.
Since the start of the Revolutionary War, there have been more than 42 million men and women who have served during America’s conflicts, and more than 1.3 million paid the ultimate sacrifice. Another 1.5 million were wounded.
A significant number of Kentuckians can be found among all three of those groups. Indeed, we have long contributed more than our fair share. We had more casualties in the War of 1812, for example, than all other states combined. Today, Fort Knox, Fort Campbell and the Kentucky National Guard and Reserves play integral roles in our country’s defense while one in 10 Kentucky adults is a veteran.
For many, Memorial Day week is the unofficial start of summer, but we must never forget it is much more than that.
This year, sadly, we were unable to commemorate the holiday as we normally do because of the coronavirus. However, that does not diminish how we feel and the respect we have for those who are no longer with us but whose legacy will always be secure.
As a holiday, Memorial Day began in the wake of the Civil War. Like that conflict itself, however, its origin has a divided history.
It is believed by many to have started in the South, when Confederate widows decorated not only the graves of their loved ones but also those of Union soldiers, knowing their families were also in pain.
It is the North, though, that is considered the official birthplace, since New York was the first state to formally recognize May 30th as the date each year to mourn our fallen soldiers. Other northern states soon adopted the same day, but many of their southern counterparts refused until the end of World War I. Instead, their days of remembrance ranged from January through early June.
It wasn’t until the early 1970s that Congress established the national holiday as we now know it: the last full three-day weekend of May.
If the exact birthplace of Memorial Day is still up for debate, the first significant national ceremony is not. It was held a little more than 150 years ago at what we now call Arlington National Cemetery.
What former Union General John Logan had to say then is a good reminder today of our task as a nation. In his proclamation, he wrote that “we should guard their graves with sacred vigilance,” adding that we should not let neglect or the passage of time show “that we have forgotten as a people the cost of a free and undivided republic.”
If you are a veteran or are still serving, I want to say how much I appreciate your willingness to protect our country and its timeless values. Whether you fought in the European or Pacific theaters in World War II, or in foreign lands like Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, or Afghanistan, or whether you protected our borders here during times of peace or conflict, always know that your role in our history is secure – and most definitely appreciated. If it were not for the contributions and sacrifices of our men and women in uniform, it is very safe to say that none of us would be living in a country that offers so much to so many.
Thanks for all you do and holler anytime.