The author is the Albany County Executive.
As we dust off the backyard grill, get ready to attend local parades and start to plan our summer vacations, we should take a moment to reflect on the true meaning of Memorial Day.
We often hear that it is “the unofficial start of summer” or a hook for the next big sale for retailers but what it really means is that as of late last week, 2,184 members of the U.S. military have died in Afghanistan since the U-S led invasion in 2001. That is sobering and should remind us every day that there are men and women willing to give their lives in service for their fellow Americans. Sometimes we fail to recognize the work our service personnel do every day to protect us from harm and to make our world safe for our children.
Like those who have served, I have a deep sense of pride and respect for my military service. I also have a keen awareness that as County Executive, I have a responsibility to work closely with elected officials and military groups in our community to recognize veterans for their service. Each month, the county holds its Honor-A-Vet ceremony where we bestow recognition on a member of the armed services who is no longer with us. Coming up next month, I will host the second Albany County Veterans Recognition Program where I will honor those veterans who are still with us whose service to our nation deserves to be highlighted. Last November I hosted a program that featured a Medal of Honor winner and four other veterans from Albany County who served with distinction and pride.
That day proved to be an emotional experience for myself and the families and friends who attended, as I am sure the next event will be. It’s important that we come together whenever possible to thank our veterans, both living and dead, whether they served in wartime or who have assisted their friends and neighbors in times of disaster to offer our gratitude for the service, pride and willingness to die for their fellow citizen.
So as we fire up the grill, sit by and watch a parade or spend the day with our families and friends, I urge you to take a moment to contemplate those who are no longer with us, those who have served and given their lives so that we may be able to enjoy the freedoms and opportunities given to us every day.