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The one place I wouldn’t be today is on I-95 leaving Washington D.C. heading to the coast — Maryland, Delaware, Virginia, or North or South Carolina — but I can assure you that thousands upon thousands are. For the first sunburn, the first chilly wave, the first ice cream (or beer) on the beach.

Memorial Day. The beginning of summer. More importantly it’s Memorial Day — many who stay in D.C. will go the the incomparable concert on the Mall hosted by veterans’ advocates Gary Sinise and Joe Mantegna. It’s their tenth year of hosting, and many of the performers return year after year to participate in the event. Yes, it’s entertaining, but it’s so much more than that. The veterans are always seated up front, the wounded getting preference in the front rows. The frequent camera shots on the audience show how moving the experience is for them. Performances are interspersed with speeches and video presentations. The patriotism of the evening is so uplifting, and at the same time sad — to see how many people have given so much for our safety and security as well as for those living in some of the most violent and chaotic countries of the world.

I can’t imagine how much courage it takes to be in the military, to take the oath to protect the United States of America, to leave one’s family, and perhaps children, to fight in foreign lands against deadly enemies. God bless these courageous people and their families.

On the occasion of the first Memorial Day President Garfield spoke at Arlington National Cemetery in 1868 and said:

“We do not know one promise these men made, one pledge they gave, one word they spoke; but we do know they summed up and perfected, by one supreme act, the highest virtues of men and citizens. For love of country they accepted death, and thus resolved all doubts, and made immortal their patriotism and their virtue.”

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