Memorial Day President Pays Tribute to America’s Veterans  
 Honoring the Sacrifices

Mike Belmessieri, of South San Francisco, salutes in front of the grave of U.S. AP – Mike Belmessieri, of South San Francisco, salutes in front of the grave of U.S. Marine Michael Bianchini …

WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama saluted veterans and urged his countrymen to do the same this Memorial Day weekend, saying the nation has not always paid them proper respect.

In his weekly radio and Internet address Saturday, Obama said people can honor veterans by sending a letter or care package to troops overseas, volunteering at health clinics or taking supplies to a homeless veterans center. He said it could also mean something as simple as saying "thank you" to a veteran walking by on the street.

"We have a responsibility to serve all of them as well as they serve all of us," Obama said. "And yet, all too often in recent years and decades, we, as a nation, have failed to live up to that responsibility. We have failed to give them the support they need or pay them the respect they deserve.

"That is a betrayal of the sacred trust that America has with all who wear and all who have worn the proud uniform of our country," he said.

The president planned to attend a Memorial Day ceremony Monday at Arlington National Cemetery.

Obama said he was committed to giving troops the training and equipment they need and making certain the Veterans Affairs Department had the money it needed. He also noted that he had signed a bill into law that would eliminate waste in defense projects and was working to improve the economy so that veterans can find a good job, provide for their families and earn a college degree.

"That is what Memorial Day is all about," Obama said. "It is about doing all we can to repay the debt we owe to those men and women who have answered our nation’s call by fighting under its flag. It is about recognizing that we, as a people, did not get here by accident or good fortune alone."

In his Saturday radio address, President Obama called on Americans to join him in paying tribute to America’s veterans, servicemen and women – particularly those who have made the ultimate sacrifice – and their families

The holiday, originally called Decoration Day, is a day of remembrance for those who have died in our nation`s service. There are many stories as to its actual beginnings, with over two dozen cities and towns laying claim to being the birthplace of Memorial Day.

Memorial Day was officially proclaimed on 5 May 1868 by General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, in his General Order No. 11, and was first observed on 30 May 1868, when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery.

You can put the `memorial` back in the holiday by:

  • Visiting cemeteries and placing flags or flowers on the graves of our fallen heroes.
  • Visiting memorials.
  • Flying the US Flag at half-staff until noon.
  • Pausing and thinking about those who made this day possible for the rest of us.

America`s Wars: U.S. Casualties

  • World War I – 116,516
  • World War II – 405,399
  • Korean War – 54,246
  • Vietnam War – 90,209

The holiday is especially appropriate now, with U.S. service men and women serving in both Iraq and Afghanistan. The U.S. deaths in the conflicts are nearing a total of 5,000 American military personnel. Civilian deaths are estimated at over 700,000. Iraqi and Afghan troop losses are believed to be over 40,000.

The president joins a Memorial Day ceremony Monday at Arlington National Cemetery.

Afghanistan and Iraq – Over 5,000 Dead