Memorial Day: Opportunity for reflection, commitment

(Via Ho’okele News)

Rear Adm. Rick Williams

Rear Adm. Rick Williams


Commander, Navy Region Hawaii and Naval Surface Group Middle Pacific

This Memorial Day weekend is a time to give solemn reflection about service, sacrifice and devotion to country.

Memorial Day began in order to honor the fallen after the Civil War. Today commemorations reach back in remembrance also for those who were killed in the Revolutionary War and other early conflicts in our history.

From our nation’s very beginning, men and women have been willing to fight and die for the ideals on which our nation was built. They have served in regional conflicts during the Cold War and in two world wars.

This year’s Memorial Day comes less than two weeks before the 70th anniversary of D-Day and the 72nd anniversary of the Battle of Midway – two big turning points in World War II.

Of course, here in Hawaii-especially here in Pearl Harbor-we are reminded daily of the bravery and commitment of Sailors, Marines, Soldiers and Airmen who deployed from here and fought across the Pacific to victory in that war.

At the same time, we must not lose sight of the other wars and conflicts in which our veterans paid the ultimate sacrifice.

Service members have deployed from, or via, Hawaii to Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan in past decades. When I meet survivors of those conflicts-along with the “living monuments” of WWII -on the joint base, at Pacific Missile Range Facility or out in town, it is a privilege to thank them in person. Many of their shipmates and friends did not make it back from war.

Today, our nation is defended and kept strong because of our dedicated and resilient all-volunteer force. Our troops have been at war since 9/11. The all-volunteer forces who fought in Iraq and who are fighting in Afghanistan are combating terrorism in what is arguably an enduring fight and persistent threat.

The fact is, while we have fought terrorism, our military has also deterred and prevented other conflicts from threatening our national interests. Maintaining stability is a key mission that we cannot overlook or take for granted. That is why the CNO set Navy imperatives for “warfighting first,” “operating forward” and “be ready.”

“You can’t surge trust” to assure our partners and deter would-be adversaries. Our Navy has to be postured at the potential source of trouble. Our security is our nation’s leading export and sought out from our friends and allies.

When our Sailors deploy forward, stand the watch, or train to be ready- through their actions- they are honoring fallen veterans who have come before them.

Each May, Americans express their deep appreciation for the service, sacrifice and devotion of military service members and their families. During Military Appreciation Month here in Hawaii, we receive gratitude from the state, counties, cities and towns where we serve.

We are thankful for the strong support our service members and their families receive from the Chamber of Commerce and Navy League. These organizations, and the people of Hawaii, help us stay the course and operate forward knowing that our families are in good hands back home.

The people of Hawaii genuinely understand and appreciate why we are here-how we protect the homeland and preserve freedom of the seas.

This Memorial Day weekend in Hawaii offers opportunities to visit gravesites or other memorials. There are a number of ceremonies at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (Punchbowl), the Kauai Veteran’s Cemetery, Hawaii State Veteran’s Cemetery, USS Utah Memorial, USS Arizona Memorial, USS Parche Submarine Memorial Park, Ford Island, War I Memorial Natatorium, Pearl Harbor Visitor Center, and the Pearl Harbor Memorial Fountain here at building 150.

This weekend, let’s think about the gift our fallen service members have given us over the decades and centuries. Let’s consider one way to honor them-through a living memorial-a commitment to keep ourselves and our shipmates safe on and off duty.

Please do your part to make this a safe, healthy and happy summer for you, your family and your friends.

It is because of our veterans that we have the freedoms we enjoy today. Let’s use their gift of freedom wisely and safely this weekend, this summer, and always-in their memory.

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