Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin released a statement on Monday recognizing Memorial Day and “the brave Americans who have lost their lives in defense of the nation that they loved.”
Here’s Austin’s full statement below:
On Memorial Day, we come together as a nation to pay tribute to the brave Americans who have lost their lives in defense of the nation that they loved, and we mourn anew alongside our cherished Gold Star and surviving families.
In this first Memorial Day since the end of America’s longest war, we remember the 2,461 U.S. service members and personnel who fell in Afghanistan. We will never forget the sacrifice that they and their families made to this country.
When troops enlist, their families serve right alongside them. Their sacrifice and devotion are what makes our armed forces so strong. It is our sacred obligation to support our military families, especially those who have paid the most unthinkable price.
Our troops do not just defend our country; they defend the principles of our democracy and our Constitution. Since Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, the world has seen again the power of ordinary citizens and soldiers to resist aggression and tyranny, and I hope that the inspiring resilience of the people of Ukraine will remind us all never to take our freedom and democracy for granted.
We rededicate ourselves today to the values and principles that our fallen forces gave their lives to defend. So let us remember these patriots with a renewed commitment to making our country worthy of their sacrifice, to keeping their families close to our hearts, and to advancing the democratic ideals for which so many have given so much.
Memorial Day originated in the 1860s as Americans began holding memorials and tributes to the soldiers lost in the Civil War. In 1868, Northern Civil War veterans leader Gen. John A. Logan called for the 30th of May that year to be a designated day to decorate the graves of soldiers who died in the war. From then on, the day was called Decoration Day, and it continued to be celebrated on May 30.
It wasn’t until Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act in 1968 that the day became officially known as Memorial Day, a federal holiday, and would be celebrated on the last Monday in May in order to establish a three-day weekend for federal workers. The change became effective in 1971.
Memorial Day parades and ceremonies take place around the country each year.