It’s been said that a nation that forgets its defenders will itself be forgotten. We tell the world who we are as a country by how we honor our fallen heroes on this sacred Memorial Day — and every day.
This Memorial Day we honor the Minnesotans who have fought for our country going back to the ridges of Gettysburg, where thousands of Americans gave what President Abraham Lincoln called, “the last full measure of devotion.”
We honor the three Minnesota National Guard soldiers who we lost in that tragic Black Hawk crash late last year. They made the ultimate sacrifice.
We honor all our service members, and we owe them a debt of gratitude that can never be repaid.
So how as a nation can we best do this? First, we must remain committed to bringing all of our fallen heroes back home and giving them a final resting place worthy of their sacrifice. Like Sgt. Eugene Yost who was just 18 years old when he left his family’s farm in Milaca, Minnesota, and shipped out to fight in the Korean War. He went missing and was declared dead. But Eugene’s niece made a promise that she would find him. And she did; 68 years later he came home and was laid to rest at Fort Snelling with full military honors.
He’s not alone. Virginia, Minnesota, resident Dante Sylvester Tini’s remains were also identified. He was killed while serving as a radioman on the USS Oklahoma during the attack on Pearl Harbor. Dante returned home last year too, greeted by his family and the Duluth Honor Guard. And he is now buried next to his parents in Virginia, honoring his wish from when he first enlisted.
Families deserve the serenity of knowing loved ones are home. Fallen soldiers deserve to have their stories told and their memories upheld, even during this pandemic. The way we gather and share their stories during this time may have changed, but our respect for them is as strong as ever.
During this time of great challenge, we see our men and women in uniform continue to protect us overseas while also fighting a new threat to our well-being here at home.
We have faced dark times before, and America has always risen to meet them. Out of the horrors of World War II, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed into law the GI bill to honor the sacrifices of our heroic servicemembers. And out of the fear and anxiety of the Cold War, President John F. Kennedy rallied our nation — and we put a man on the moon. President Ronald Reagan rose to the moment with his famous words in Berlin, “Tear down that wall.” And it happened.
That is the leadership that we must demand for these challenging times.
Across the country, we see servicemembers on the frontlines, risking their lives for others — working in our hospitals, transporting critical supplies, and working every single day protecting their communities.
One way to honor those who lost their lives serving our country is by caring for the warriors who follow them. This means that veterans who need health care get health care when they need it. This means that veterans who have disability claims get them processed. This means that veterans have access to the education and other benefits they have earned.
And this means making sure we’re protecting veterans from contracting the coronavirus and ensuring those at risk get the health care they need.
FDR, who led our country through a similar time of crisis, once said this: “Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the assessment that something else is more important than fear.”
That is the kind of courage our heroes on the frontlines have always shown. Their service, their life’s mission, to them, is more important than fear.
On this Memorial Day we honor all of those whose spirit of duty never wavered — even during the most difficult of times.
To all who served, are serving, or are remembering a loved one lost, we thank you and we honor you — today and every day.
Amy Klobuchar represents Minnesota in the U.S. Senate.