By Rep. Kristi Noem
The solemn nature of Memorial Day has been somewhat lost through the years. With so much going on, it’s easy to start thinking about the weekend as the launch point of summer, a day off work, or maybe a great time to get a good deal. The truth we all know is that Memorial Day is set aside to remember those who sacrificed everything to preserve our live, liberty, and pursuit of happiness.
I don’t know what it is like to lose a family member to the trauma of war, but I do know how devastating it is for a child to lose her father. That is where my mind ultimately goes each Memorial Day: to the children, spouses, parents, and friends who are here today, reminding us that the price for freedom is high.
One of the most difficult things I’ve had to do while in office is call the families of a soldier who has fallen in action or lost their life to the physical and emotional wounds incurred in service. My heart shatters thinking about all they’ve lost, but even so, I know I can’t understand the true depth of their suffering. So, I pray for them.
The debt we owe these families and the service members they love can never be repaid. Nonetheless, we owe them our undying gratitude through our words, prayers, and actions.
One of the ways I tried to mark that recently was by flying a flag over the United States Capitol earlier this year to recognize the service of Eugene Fedt of Bryant. Eugene has been a dedicated member of the American Legion for 50 years and a lifelong steward of the American land he vowed to protect. It’s my honor to personally thank him in this way.
I encourage you to spend time this week thanking a veteran or the family of a fallen soldier. Take President John F. Kennedy’s advice that when expressing this gratitude “never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” Visit the Black Hills, Fort Meade, or Hot Springs National Cemeteries. Attend a Memorial Day celebration. Sit down with a disabled veteran. Invite a military family to dinner. Reach out to a member of the South Dakota National Guard and congratulate them on taking Gold in the 2016 Army Communities of Excellence Awards earlier this month. There are little things each of us can do this week and throughout the year to show how much we appreciate their sacrifices.
Author Joseph Campbell wrote: “A hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself.” To all our heroes – past, present and future – and to their families, I want to say thank you for dedicating yourself to something bigger. I am truly humbled and inspired by your service.