FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas (Army News Service, Aug. 31, 2007) - It's easy to forget the true meaning of Labor Day when there are a bevy of barbecues and poolside picnics to enjoy.

But the holiday is not just a day of rest and relaxation; it's a tribute to the contributions American workers have made to the strength, prosperity and well-being of the nation.

From childcare providers with 20-plus years of service under their belt to senior volunteers who drive patients from distant parking spots to Brooke Army Medical Center's front door, Fort Sam Houston has an abundance of dedicated workers who deserve a day's tribute.

"I love what I do; it's not work to me," said Birgit Tomkins, administrative assistant at the Warrior and Family Support Center. Ms. Tomkins' job is to assist with the center's daily operations and help out wounded warriors recovering at BAMC in any way possible. "I'm happy every day to come to work. It's very rewarding to have a job helping people."

When asked, Robbi Schlitz couldn't pin down a specific person she'd want to thank for their work; she's grateful for everyone at the fort. "Everyone has gone the extra mile here," said Ms. Schlitz, whose son, Staff Sgt. Michael Schlitz, was 80 percent burned in combat and is recovering at BAMC. The doctors, nurses, guest house clerks; they've all been amazing to me and my son."

The idea of setting aside a day for America's workers dates back to Sept. 5, 1882, when 10,000 workers assembled in New York City to participate in the nation's first Labor Day parade, according to the Department of Labor.

In 1898, Samuel Gompers, head of the American Federation of Labor, called Labor Day, "the day for which the toilers in past centuries looked forward, when their rights and their wrongs would be discussed ... that the workers of our day may not only lay down their tools of labor for a holiday, but upon which they may touch shoulders in marching phalanx and feel the stronger for it."

Like other Americans throughout the decades and country, Fort Sam Houston's hard-working employees deserve a moment of tribute and hopefully most, if not all, will enjoy a well-deserved day off.

(Elaine Wilson writes for the Fort Sam Houston Public Information Office.)