Each year on Memorial Day we take time to remember the men and women of our armed forces who made the ultimate sacrifice to defend the ideals of freedom. Whether you plan to take part in a community ceremony or observe a personal moment of silence, it is important to honor our fallen comrades.
What we observe as Memorial Day was originally known as Decoration Day, and it was first observed on May 30, 1868, at Arlington National Cemetery with the decorating of graves of fallen Civil War soldiers and continued through the years. In 1971, Congress declared Memorial Day on the last Monday in May a national holiday. Many of those honored in 1868 served in their state militias, and that tradition of Citizen-Warrior service has carried on through our nation’s conflicts in World Wars I and II, Korea, Vietnam, the first Gulf War and the Global War on Terror.
There is perhaps no greater example of service and sacrifice in Virginia National Guard history than the invasion of Normandy, France on June 6, 1944. More than 800 members of the 116th Infantry were killed, wounded or missing during the assault on Omaha Beach, but their courage and bravery helped create a foothold that allowed follow on forces to continue the assault and set the stage for Allied victory in Europe.
We also remember the 10 Soldiers in the Virginia National Guard who paid the ultimate price while on federal active duty as a result of hostile enemy action in support of the Global War on Terror. It is important that we never forgot these brave men, and we should keep their families in our thoughts and prayers during the time of remembrance.
The Memorial Day Holiday weekend also marks the beginning of the summer season, and many of us will gather with friends and family. Please be sure to keep safety in mind whether you are grilling, hiking, camping, boating or even catching up on chores around the house. We all know that safety briefs are part of every military operation, but we need to apply those same practices in our off duty time as well to make sure we are taking appropriate measures to protect ourselves from potential hazards.
Please be sure to wear a seatbelt when you are traveling by car, obey all posted speed limits, get plenty of rest before you hit the road and take frequent breaks along the way. When you are driving, boating or taking part in other physical activities, remember that mixing alcohol and drugs will impair your abilities and is a recipe for disaster for you and those around you.
Every Soldier, Airman, Virginia Defense Force member and state and federal civilian employee plays an important role in our mission, and it is critical that we all look out for each other and make sure we stay safe whether we are at work or enjoying time off duty.
We should also take time to salute the Soldiers, Airmen, Marines and Sailors all over the world putting the lives on the line and away from their families. We wish them all a safe and speedy return.
I am extremely proud of our continued contribution to safety and security of both commonwealth and country, and I thank each of you for the role you play. It is an honor to serve with you all.
Brig. Gen. Timothy P. Williams
The 28th Adjutant General of Virginia