Memorial Day 2021 is upon us, and it is a time for all of us to step up. The challenges facing our Country are significant and must be addressed. Readers of this note—people who like you who are able, civilized and skilled—can do it. You will find ways.
After all, Memorial Day celebrates all the brave men and women of the Armed Forces, especially those who gave their all. They did not hesitate to do their duty. Now it is time for the rest of us to do ours as we face the future.
We are slowly but surely emerging from the pandemic that has claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands of Americans and millions around the world. And so even as we express our appreciation for the sacrifices made by our brave men and women in uniform, we must also remember all those who were taken from us by the coronavirus, all those who were infected and still suffer serious aftereffects, all those who lost loved ones, and all those who were deprived of their livelihoods during the long lockdown.
We must also remember with gratitude the countless hospital and healthcare workers who gave so much—in many cases, their own lives—to get our nation through the pandemic. We are grateful, too, to the leaders of all the organizations, both public and private, who contributed to the recovery effort. It is thanks to all these brave, decent, dedicated people that we can now look forward to returning to our normal lives.
Once again, as we do every Memorial Day, let us remember that of the 1.3 million men and women now on active duty, more than 165,000 are stationed in, or conduct missions in, some 150 countries, including perilous places like Somalia, Libya and Yemen.
And never forget that our nation has paid a steep price for the freedoms we enjoy: The American dead in all the conflicts since the American Revolution total more than 1.3 million.
Since the late 1950s on the Thursday before Memorial Day, soldiers of the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment, the oldest active-duty infantry unit in the Army, place small American flags at each of the more than 260,000 gravestones at Arlington National Cemetery. A 24-hour patrol is conducted every day during the weekend to ensure each flag remains standing.
Memorial Day also marks the unofficial start of summer—a time for going to ballgames, holding cookouts and other holiday pleasures. But ever since it was turned into a three-day weekend in 1970 when the observation was moved to the last Monday in May, many of us appear to have forgotten its hallowed purpose. There seems to be less attention to its meaning and more to pleasure and recreation.
And so, however you choose to mark this special event, let us all stay safe. And let us all keep in our hearts the courageous men and women who have sacrificed so much for this nation. As a good friend of the firm has expressed it, we must Remember to Remember.
Robert L. Dilenschneider is the Founder and CEO of The Dilenschneider Group, an international communications firm that provides strategic advice and counsel to Fortune 500 companies and leading families and individuals in fields ranging from mergers and acquisitions, to crisis communications, to marketing, government affairs and foreign media.