The arrival of Memorial Day has come to feel like the start of summer, especially with so many students’ school years ending across the commonwealth. During the holiday weekend, families across our state will begin their yearly traditions and the memory-making we all enjoy.

These moments with family and friends would not be possible without the sacrifices of many who laid down their lives to bless ours. Properly honoring the memory of fallen service members demands a celebration with a heart of gratitude and a deliberate effort to educate our children on the significance of Memorial Day.

How fortunate are we to live as United States citizens and residents of our great state? As is evident in thousands having just cast ballots in the state’s primary election, no other country boasts the freedoms and privileges we enjoy in America, a nation founded on religious liberty and the pursuit of happiness, no matter how one may define it. As chair of the Senate Veterans, Military Affairs and Public Protection Committee, I am honored to serve in a position in the legislature vital to making public policy benefiting our service members and military families. We cannot only memorialize and honor the memories of those lost. We must support and show appreciation through action for those among us today.

Protecting those freedoms requires a military force like none other. Memorial Day was established to honor those who perished in the Civil War, which claimed more lives than any conflict in our nation’s history. In the late 1860s, Americans began holding springtime tributes to fallen soldiers, decorating graves, and praying together. These memorial activities became a tradition.

I ask you to join me in memorializing the brave servicemen and women who lost their lives in the line of duty.

Tragically, we experienced this here in Kentucky earlier this year. Nine Fort Campbell soldiers perished in March when two Black Hawk helicopters crashed. Join me in remembering these service members and the families and communities they left behind.

They were: Staff Sgt. Joshua Gore, 25; Chief Warrant Officer 2 Zachary Esparza, 36; Sgt. David Solinas Jr., 23 ; Staff Sgt. Taylor Mitchell, 30; Sgt. Isaac J. Gayo, 27; Chief Warrant Officer 2 Rusten Smith, 32; Warrant Officer 1 Aaron Healy, 32; Cpl. Emilie Marie Eve Bolanos, 23; and Warrant Officer 1 Jeffery Barnes, 33.

As you create cherished memories with your family this holiday weekend, engage in conversation with the young people in your life to ensure the special tradition of Memorial Day is not lost. Express to them the magnitude of the holiday. Freedom isn’t free.

Remember the words written by President John Adams to Benjamin Rush in 1808: “Our obligations to our country never cease but with our lives.” Remember our fallen heroes who fulfilled their obligation to their nation more than most others ever will.

It is my honor to serve as your state senator. I encourage you to seek a Memorial Day ceremony honoring our fallen military members among your other family traditions. I wish you and yours a safe and blessed Memorial Day weekend.

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