Today is Memorial Day.
It is more than another day off from work and school.
Memorial Day offers all of us an excellent opportunity to pay tribute to America's veterans, the ones who have done so much to protect and defend the freedoms we all enjoy today.
Americans have fought in dozens of wars.
Unless humans change their ways, we'll probably experience more conflicts in the future.
History teaches us that the world will never run out of threats to freedom.
Hitler is no more.
We won the Cold War.
But our world must contend with other threats - threats from terrorists and extremists.
Even today, our military is waging bloody conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq to try to bring democracy to that region of the world.
What stands between us and these terrorists? Our military.
Clearly, future generations may be called upon again to sacrifice for freedom.
From the Revolutionary War to the battles in Afghanistan and Iraq, more than 39 million Americans have gone to battle and more than 1.2 million have not survived.
Their graves stretch across the country and around the world.
More than 100,000 other Americans, probably many more, are still missing - missing in action, lost at sea or vanished in a distant jungle.
The idea of a memorial day is not new.
It can be traced back thousands of years to the ancient Greeks who eulogized their dead who gave their lives in defense of their country.
According to tradition, Memorial Day was first observed in this country during the Civil War when southern women chose May 30 to decorate the graves of the dead of both the Union and Confederate armies.
In 1868, Major Gen. John A. Logan, commander-in-chief of the Union veterans organizations, the Grand Army of the Republic, designated May 30 as a special day to honor Civil War dead.
More than 100 years ago, President Lincoln paid this nation's most complete tribute to America's war dead when he said at Gettysburg, "...in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead who struggled here, have consecrated it far above our power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember, what we do here; but it can never forget what they did here."
The federal government maintains 129 military burial rounds in 39 states and Puerto Rico and 24 others in a dozen foreign countries.
Overseas, 124,912 U.S. soldiers, sailors and airmen lie in alien soil, from a hillside overlooking ancient Carthage in North Africa to a high plateau near Manila in the Philippines.
Beneath the rows of white headstones rest men and women who went out boldly and died bravely for their country - heroes all.
There is no gloom at these cemeteries. Sadness, yes, but no gloom.
These warriors rest at last in a quiet place of green trees, winding paths and shady lawns.
Americans on vacation come to see these historic sites. They are peaceful places to visit.
They are solemn, but not somber.
Memorial Day is the day we remember and glorify those who lost their lives fighting for our nation.
Let us remember the sacrifices of those who fought for our freedom - and who are still fighting - to protect it.
The men and women we remember on Memorial Day demonstrated the highest form of faith in the triumph of good over evil.
Their graves tell the story of our nation.