On May 28, Memorial Day, we are given a chance to honor our nation’s fallen heroes and reflect on their bravery in making the ultimate sacrifice to safeguard our freedom. This year, as we remember those who have died in America’s wars throughout our history, we can also commemorate the end of the Iraq War and honor the memories of the thousands of brave men and women who were killed in action.
In December, the Iraq War officially ended. From the time the war began in March 2003, to when it ended in December 2011, more than 1 million troops fought overseas. Nearly 4,500 American troops were killed and an additional 30,000 were wounded. As President Obama said, the remaining troops left “with their heads held high, proud of their success, and knowing that the American people stand united in our support for our troops.”
President Obama recently made an unannounced visit to Afghanistan, where he signed a pact that signifies the beginning of the end of the War in Afghanistan. By the end of the summer, 23,000 troops will leave Afghanistan, and by the end of 2014, all troops will be brought home. We honor the thousands of New Yorkers who have been deployed there – and all over the world – over the past decade, defending us from international terrorists and keeping our families safe here at home.
You may not know that Memorial Day was first celebrated right here in New York State. The year was 1866 and the celebration took place on Main Street in the village of Waterloo, in Seneca County, during springtime. To honor and commemorate those who gave their lives to protect us, our homes and our nation, flowers were placed on the graves of fallen soldiers, flags were lowered to half mast and remembrance ceremonies were held. Over 140 years later, we continue to honor fallen soldiers in the same way we did back then – a tradition across America. Memorial Day is a day that unites our country in remembrance of our fallen heroes and recognizes all they did for us, while expressing our gratitude to these individuals.
I am dedicated to honoring and preserving the memory of those who died during times of conflict. The men and women in uniform – the heroes who leave their lives behind to fight every day across the world to defend our freedom – are an inspiration to New Yorkers. I will do everything in my power to ensure the best for our troops and their families, while they are at home and abroad.