This weekend, in cemeteries across the United States, flowers and small American flags will mark the final resting places of those who served our country. The flag is placed as a tribute to their service on the day all Americans set aside to remember their sacrifice, Memorial Day.

When I leave my home in the morning and when I return home to Van Meter in the evening, I drive down Veterans Memorial Drive – right along the Iowa Veterans Cemetery. More than 1,300 of those small flags will mark the graves of women and men at the Iowa Veterans Cemetery. Seeing the American flag waving on top of the cemetery’s hill is a powerful reminder. A reminder of what the ultimate sacrifice truly means. And across the state and country, flags will stand tall and waive in the breeze of sacrifice and freedom.

Memorial Day wasn’t made a federal holiday for backyard BBQs or sales at your favorite store. Memorial Day was created so we could set aside time to remember and recognize those who we have to thank for our freedoms, rights, and what we hold most dear.

Originally called Decoration Day, the yearly observance honoring our fallen soldiers began over 146 years ago, after the Civil War. In 1971, a congressional act established Memorial Day’s official status as a federal holiday.

We can never fully repay the debt we owe to those who served our country, but we must try to do so at every turn. Whether it’s taking dinner to your neighbor who has lost a loved one who served, or going to your local VFW or American Legion to volunteer – we must do our part.

I am thankful for our women and men in uniform, who are working towards a world that is freer, safer, and more secure for our generation and for generations to come. This Memorial Day weekend, take pause to think about those who lost their lives in defense of our freedoms. We owe a great deal to those in uniform who have answered the call to serve our nation and those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedoms.

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