The United States Armed Forces Code of Conduct states "I am an American, fighting in the forces which guard my country and our way of life. I am prepared to give my life in their defense." Memorial Day is the day we honor those who have given their lives in our nation's defense.

Originally called "Decoration Day," it was created at the end of the Civil War to establish a time for the nation to decorate the graves of its war dead with flowers.

At a Decoration Day held at Arlington National Cemetery in 1868, with the wounds of the Civil War still fresh, then Ohio Congressman and future President, James Garfield said that he found it difficult to, "utter the right words on this occasion. If silence is ever golden, it must be here beside the graves of fifteen thousand men, whose death was a poem, the music of which can never be sung."

Now called Memorial Day, it is a day dedicated to honoring the heroes who are here only in spirit and to keep their memories alive.

Feeling the warmth of the sun on our faces and knowing that those who have passed on are looking down on us, reminds us of the enormity of their sacrifice.

Those we honor have come from all across our nation and from all walks of life. Their common values of duty, honor, country and personal courage show their willingness to belong to a cause larger than one's self. We cannot help but feel awed by their selfless service.

As we honor our fallen let us also spare a thought for those unsung heroes for whom the loss is so much more personal, the families and loved ones of those this day is dedicated to. We are eternally grateful for the sacrifice you have made.

While Memorial Day is a day of solemn mourning, it is also a day of reverent celebration. A celebration of the American spirit, a celebration of men and women who dared all, who gave all, so that we might continue to enjoy the freedoms and benefits of our great nation.

Landy D. Dunham
Commander, U.S. Army Garrison West Point