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Thoughts on Memorial Day

Updated: Jun 6, 2020

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is guarded 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and in any weather by Tomb Guard sentinels.

What a tremendous privilege it is to live near DC and to be able to view Arlington National Cemetery every day on my way home from work, acting as a reminder of all those who sacrificed for us!

Through my 37 years in the Army, my wife’s 21 years, both our fathers’ times as WWI and Korean War veterans, and our son’s now 9 years in the Army (readying for his fourth combat assignment) I have gained a great appreciation for the costs, brutality, ugliness, and yet sometimes necessity, of war.

When I escorted and presented the American flag to a friend, the young grieving wife of one of my son’s best friends who was deployed with him, the reminder hit close to home. To comfort those who lose someone so close to them and to know that their pain will last a lifetime gives one a sense of how much we value freedom and how important it is not to forget those who have sacrificed so much. My multiple times at Dover repatriating the remains of our fallen heroes and the all too many funerals at which I represented the Army leadership gave me an even greater appreciation of what our men and women, military members, civilian servants, and their families give up to fight for their buddies and a cause greater than themselves. Many of you know this personally as well.

In Afghanistan I witnessed firsthand the selflessness and willingness of our fellow citizens to put their lives at risk to help others. It is very humbling to meet with soldiers who are preparing to head out on dangerous missions. They place an amazing trust in their leaders and their equipment and their training. Importantly, also, is the assurance they have that their fellow Americans back home care. That is our responsibility — we can’t let them down.

My wife and I (and children when they are home) visit Arlington or one or more of our war memorials every Memorial Day weekend to keep our spirits in check and pay a simple silent tribute to friends; and we can’t help but grieve with the hundreds of other friends and families doing the same. Don’t miss an opportunity this weekend to visit your local or National cemetery or war memorial and say a prayer of thanksgiving, remembering those who are immortalized there are the very reason you can enjoy the privilege of saluting them.

Maj. Gen. (Ret) Don Riley

Senior Vice President

General Riley formerly served as Deputy Commanding General and Deputy Chief of Engineers of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.


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