OFFUTT AIR FORCE BASE, Neb. â€“ U.S. Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM) senior leaders joined Nebraska government officials, veterans and community members over the weekend at Memorial Day recognition events throughout Omaha and the surrounding area to remember, respect and honor those who gave their lives to guarantee the freedoms and liberties Americans enjoy today.
The events varied from speaking engagements at three American Legion post events, to a musical salute at the Eastern Nebraska Veterans Home in Bellevue and a ceremonial first pitch at an Omaha Storm Chasers baseball game in Papillion. Although the venues and activities differed, the message carried by USSTRATCOM representatives was universal: we must never forget the courage, legacy and service of those who made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of the nation.
U.S. Army Maj. Gen. John Uberti, USSTRATCOM chief of staff, said “our nation owes a debt of gratitude to each and every one of our fallen Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines,” during the keynote speech at a Heroes of the Heartland Foundation ceremony at Memorial Park in Omaha.
“They have given all to protect what we hold most dear,” he added. “But we must also recognize, remember and honor those they left behind.” He thanked the husbands and wives, mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, extended family and friends who “carry on each day with a void they can never really fill,” but find the “courage and resilience” to preserve “the memory of the brave men and women they, and we, have lost.”
In addition to USSTRATCOM and Nebraska, leaders and organizations at all levels of the government paid their respects in recognition of Memorial Day. During an observance at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, U.S. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter said the obligations and opportunities of Americans on Memorial Day are “one in the same.” Â
“Our obligation is to give voice to the fallen, honor them, and share their stories of sacrifice and heroism,” he said. “Our opportunity is to use this day to inspire new generations to understand the freedom they have been given, to grasp how and why it is theirs, and to dedicate themselves to pass it on to generations unborn.”
The tradition of honoring fallen war veterans dates back to May 5, 1868 â€“ three years after the Civil War ended â€“ when the head of the Grand Army of the Republic, an organization of Union veterans, established “Decoration Day” as a time for the nation to decorate the graves of the war dead with flowers. The first large observance was held at Arlington National Cemetery, Virginia.
In 1971, Memorial Day was declared a national holiday by an act of Congress and was placed on the last Monday of May.