Initially meant as a time to remember those who fell during the bloody battles of our brutal Civil War, the holiday's significance has been extended to honor all those who paid the ultimate price for our nation. As they have done every year since 1948, soldiers of the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment will place flags at more than 260,000 gravestones at Arlington National Cemetery. They will remain at Arlington National Cemetery throughout the holiday weekend making sure that the flags remain upright.
There will be similar observances at national cemeteries around the country. In Fredericksburg, Virginia, local Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts will place candles at more than 15,000 graves at the Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park. Taps will be played every 30 minutes.
Over time, Memorial Day weekend has become more of an occasion for relaxation than for reflection about our patriots' graves and the values for which they gave "the last full measure of devotion." This weekend, I encourage you to do both -- relax and reflect.
Have that picnic, hug your kids and have some fun at the beach. But let's also remind ourselves, and our children, about what happened at Concord Bridge, on the fields of Antietam and the beaches of Normandy and why we are in Afghanistan today. Explain to them the price that was paid to stop fascism and Soviet communism, why there was a Berlin Wall, what happened at Okinawa, at Ground Zero and over the fields of Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
Here's something else you can do. This Sunday, May 27th, is the first of three Voter Registration Sundays being organized by Father Frank Pavone and Priests for Life. My non-profit group American Values is proud to support these events. The ability to choose our leaders is a cherished right that our Founding Fathers risked their lives, fortunes and sacred honor to give us. It has been secured by the blood of previous generations.
Every citizen owes it to our men and women in uniform today not to squander this right. Ask your pastor to participate in Voter Registration Sunday. Take a moment this weekend to make sure your friends and family members are all registered to vote.
Lastly, take a moment this Memorial Day to teach our children and grandchildren to love the things we love, and honor the things we honor. Finally, let's remind ourselves as well as our children that liberty is a gift from God, and that each generation has paid in flesh and blood to preserve it. As General George Patton said, "It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God that such men lived."