Happy Memorial Day
In an unbroken line running from Valley Forge to Camp Victory, American men and women have answered the call to arms with valor, courage and commitment. While most return home from their service, sadly many do not. The scriptures say, "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." In quiet cemeteries all across Virginia rest men and women who have done just that. They are our heroes.
We observe this Memorial Day with the recognition that we are a nation at war. This is not an historical exercise. On Thursday I joined the Attorney General and Lieutenant Governor on the South Portico of the State Capitol at the Virginia Wall of Honor ceremony. The Wall honors Virginians lost in the Global War on Terrorism, from the bombing of the USS Cole in October 2000 to today. At this year's ceremony we solemnly added the names of 24 more Virginians to the Wall. One of the speakers was Kim Felts. Her husband, Col. Thomas Felts, was the 100th Virginian killed in the Global War on Terrorism. Standing with her children beside her, Kim said, "Moms and dads, thank you for raising heroes. Spouses, thank you for loving, following, and supporting your American service members all around the world. And children, thank you for understanding and honoring your parent's legacy to our country." This Memorial Day we remember and we honor Col. Thomas Felts and his fellow fallen soldiers. And we remember and honor the strength and example provided by Col. Felts' brave widow, Kim.
We also observe this Memorial Day with another important recognition. Every day more than 1000 World War II veterans pass away. 16 million veterans returned home from that conflict; today less than 2 million remain. I owe everything I have to two of them: my father John F. McDonnell, who served with the 8th Air Force bomber squadron in England; and my father-in-law Frank Gardner who served as a Marine on Okinawa, Iwo Jima and Saipan. Maureen and I are so fortunate to have our fathers still with us. The Greatest Generation is aging, and with each day we say goodbye to more of these remarkable men and women who came out of small towns and big cities to join together to defeat the greatest threats to peace and freedom the world has ever known. They never asked for anything in return. Today, if you have the opportunity, please thank a World War II veteran.
There is a quote by George Washington that I often turn to when discussing the importance of remembering those who have served. Washington said, "The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional to how they perceive veterans of early wars were treated and appreciated by our nation." He was right. This Memorial Day, please thank a veteran. If you know a member of the Greatest Generation who could use a visit, or maybe some help, please reach out to them. If you know a local family missing a loved one who is currently stationed overseas, please stop by to see how they are doing. This is the greatest nation the world has ever known. And that is true because for over 200 years patriots have answered their nation's call and given their all in defense of liberty, freedom and the United States of America.