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WARD SENDS: Honoring our Service Members on Memorial Day
On Memorial Day, May 25, 2009, Americans honor all veterans past and present and pay special tribute to fallen service members in a variety of ways. Flags are placed on graves of American service members in cemeteries around the world; families
CARTHAGE, Tunisia - In this 2008 file photo, men and women of a Tunisian military honor guard stand at attention at the North Africa American Cemetery and Memorial during a Memorial Day ceremony May 27, 2008. The cemetery is the site of 2,841 graves for U.S. military members, most of whom lost their lives in World War II during military operations in North Africa and the Persian Gulf. Memorial Day, observed the last Monday in May, is the U.S. national holiday to honor military men and women who have died while serving their country. (Photo by Eric Elliott, U.S. Africa Command)
1 photo: U.S. AFRICOM Photo
Photo 1 of 1: CARTHAGE, Tunisia - In this 2008 file photo, men and women of a Tunisian military honor guard stand at attention at the North Africa American Cemetery and Memorial during a Memorial Day ceremony May 27, 2008. The cemetery is the site of 2,841 graves for U.S. military members, most of whom lost their lives in World War II during military operations in North Africa and the Persian Gulf. Memorial Day, observed the last Monday in May, is the U.S. national holiday to honor military men and women who have died while serving their country. (Photo by Eric Elliott, U.S. Africa Command) Download full-resolution version
On Memorial Day, May 25, 2009, Americans honor all veterans past and present and pay special tribute to fallen service members in a variety of ways. Flags are placed on graves of American service members in cemeteries around the world; families reunite for weekend gatherings; war veterans participate in local parades; and the U.S. president observes the time-honored tradition of laying a wreath at Arlington National Cemetery's Tomb of the Unknowns

As commander of U.S. Africa Command, I ask you to pause this Memorial Day weekend and reflect upon the sacrifices of those who have paid the ultimate price to protect our freedoms and the values we hold dear.

Americans lie in military cemeteries around the world, including at the North Africa American Cemetery and Memorial in Carthage, Tunisia. The vast majority of these graves are for our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines who died in campaigns of World War II.

In a remarkable testament to our enduring values, each year school children, volunteers and foreign military members from host nations and nearby communities gather at these hallowed American burial grounds. They lay flowers, decorate graves with flags, and participate in profoundly moving ceremonies to commemorate young Americans who, far from home, gave their lives so that others might enjoy freedom and prosperity.

To watch people of other nations so willingly honor fallen Americans is truly a humbling experience. While the death of a service member always brings tremendous grief and a sense of loss, we can be assured that it was not in vain, that their deaths have directly contributed to the liberation of peoples and helped to change the course of history in a positive direction.

While remembering the fallen, I also wish to honor our veterans and the service members who currently are serving around the world. The United States and our African and international partners are working together across Africa to establish a secure environment so that people everywhere can share the same freedoms.

To all of you who serve our nation's military, both in Europe and on the African continent, as well as our civilian teammates: I cannot thank you enough for the sacrifices you and your families have made in defending our nation's freedom, and in promoting the values of freedom that we, our friends and partners hold so dear.

I wish each of you a safe Memorial Day weekend!
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