By Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack
This Memorial Day weekend, Americans across the nation will gather with their friends and families to go swimming and for picnics, parades and barbecues.
But the weekend is not only for celebration. We should also take time to pay tribute to the heroes who gave their lives in service to this country.
Throughout the history of our nation, regular citizens have answered the call to serve, and they have made the ultimate sacrifice. From the Revolutionary War to the current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, about 650,000 brave Americans have died while in the service of our country. It is fitting that we commemorate and honor them, not only this weekend, but every day of our lives.
I want to say a particular thank you to our Vietnam Veterans. I don’t believe these courageous men and women have been adequately thanked for their service, so it is especially important to me that they are honored and recognized for their selfless contributions. And we should think of the servicemen and women who cannot be here this year because they are serving us abroad.
Farmers and ranchers understand from years of experience that you cannot continually take from the land without giving back. The same is true for a nation.
Perhaps that is why – although rural Americans represent only 16 percent of the population of America – they make up 44 percent of our men and women in uniform.
This commitment to service has been essential to the success of our nation over more than 200 years – and it will continue for years to come.
And so I hope that this Memorial Day you think of what you can do to serve our nation, to give back to your community.
Those patriots who we honor this weekend gave their lives in defense of America. In respect for their sacrifice, let us offer our support to all of our men and women in uniform, their families, and loved ones. And let us dedicate some time in our busy lives to make improvements to our own communities so that we may serve, and strengthen our nation as a whole.