Senator Hassan: How we can honor the fallen this Memorial Day
WASHINGTON – In recognition of Memorial Day, U.S. Senator Maggie Hassan wrote a tribute to America’s fallen service members, recognizing our nation’s heroes.
If I could only choose one place in New Hampshire to tell someone to visit — to see what we really stand for — it would be the New Hampshire State Veterans Cemetery. It’s both a place to reflect and to find solace, and it’s an honor every year to participate in its annual Memorial Day ceremony.
This year, of course, our Memorial Day commemorations will be different. Many Memorial Day ceremonies have either been cancelled or moved online because of the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.
I know it’s hard not to be together in-person on such an important day, especially this year as we mark the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II. But even though we may not be attending parades or speeches, we must all still take the time to recognize our nation’s greatest heroes.
Last year, I visited two World War II sites — the beaches of Normandy that Allied Forces stormed on D-Day, and the battlegrounds of the Battle of the Bulge in Belgium and Luxembourg.
On the anniversary of D-Day, I joined a bipartisan group of my colleagues at Normandy, where thousands of brave young men charged through a storm of heavy gunfire to take the beaches and set us on the path to defeating the Nazis.
There I visited the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial, where more than 9,000 of these courageous service members are buried.
A few months later in December, I visited the hallowed grounds of the Battle of the Bulge. This was particularly special for me because my father served in that battle, and I grew up hearing stories about his time at war and the men he fought alongside.
Throughout WWII, men like my father fought to protect our freedoms — many making the ultimate sacrifice. In the Battle of the Bulge alone, there were nearly 80,000 American casualties.
Standing at the Ardennes American Cemetery in Belgium, I saw rows and rows of gravestones marking the final resting place of thousands of those Americans, and later on I visited the Henri-Chapelle American Cemetery, a 57-acre cemetery that is the final resting place of forty brave Granite Staters.
While visiting the burial grounds of our service members throughout Normandy and Belgium, I noticed that each cemetery was immaculately cared for by the people of France and Belgium, who are still grateful 75 years later for the sacrifices that American soldiers made for them. They are breathtaking memorials to the lives of those we lost. These sacred places both reflect our respect for our fallen heroes and also serve as a reminder to the living of the great cost of our freedom.
My dad’s generation — the Greatest Generation — never forgot the bloody consequences of their fight against fascism, continuing to reinforce democratic values throughout their lives.
Generations before them did and generations after them will continue to make great sacrifices in order to defend liberty. Though we can never fully repay the sacrifices of our courageous service members and their families, we must try.
This Memorial Day, I invite you to not only remember the lives and service of those we have lost, but also ask you to recommit to upholding the American values that so many have fought and died for.