For many Americans, Memorial Day marks the beginning of summer and a time for some rest and relaxation. More importantly, Memorial Day is a time for us to pause and pay tribute to the more than 1.3 million Americans who have died in military conflicts throughout our history. We must never forget them.

Memorial Day originally began as Decoration Day, an observance in many small towns of America that were affected by the horrific losses of the American Civil War. Each spring, mourners honored their fallen loved ones by decorating their graves with flowers. The first national celebration of Decoration Day took place in 1868 at Arlington National Cemetery, where 5,000 mourners put flowers and ribbons on the 20,000 graves of Union and Confederate Soldiers. Continuing in that tradition, more than 400,000 graves are decorated at Arlington each Memorial Day.

Here in Europe, we have a unique opportunity for paying tribute to American Soldiers on Memorial Day. In the USAREUR area of responsibility alone, there are 21 American Battle Monuments Commission cemeteries and 15 World War I and World War II memorial monuments. During the holiday weekend, take some time to visit some of these historic sites and, if you can, take part in one of the many special Memorial Day observances held at these sacred places.

Whatever you do this Memorial Day, please remember those to whom this day is dedicated. We owe them our thanks, and not just on Memorial Day. I am also grateful to all of you for your service to our Army and our Nation, and I am honored to serve beside you here in United States Army Europe.

Strong Soldiers, Strong Teams!

Lt. Gen. Donald Campbell