For more than 150 years now, ever since the end of the Civil War, our nation has set aside time to commemorate those who paid the ultimate price protecting our nation and freedom around the world.
Memorial Day began as a result of that bloody conflict, and while many towns claim to be the holiday's birthplace, the federal government declared in the 1960s that its original home is Waterloo, NY.
There is no doubt about the location of the first official ceremony in Washington, D.C.; that occurred in 1868 at what is now known as Arlington National Ceremony.
In his order calling for the decoration of the soldiers' graves, Union General John Logan wrote that our nation should always strive to make sure we never forget, "as a people, the cost of a free and undivided republic."
Nearly a century later, another General -- Douglas MacArthur -- told a group of West Point cadets what drives those willing to serve even at risk to their own lives.
"Duty, honor, country," he said. "Those three hallowed words reverently dictate what you ought to be, what you can be, what you will be. They are your rallying points: to build courage when courage seems to fail; to regain faith when there seems to be little cause for faith; to create hope when hope becomes forlorn."
No words better describe the men and women who serve in uniform. They find courage, faith, and hope at times where it may seem there are none.
While many see Memorial Day as the unofficial start of summer, we must never forget that the holiday carries much more significance than that.
It is a time when we remember the battles that helped define our country's history, from Bunker Hill, Gettysburg and Pearl Harbor to Saigon, Baghdad and Kabul.
It is a time when a moment of silence speaks volumes.
Kentuckians understand this time better than most. Roughly one in 10 of our adults is a veteran, and Fort Knox, Fort Campbell and the Kentucky National Guard and Reserves have long played integral roles in our country's defense.
This coming weekend, especially on Monday, numerous ceremonies and parades will be held across the commonwealth and the country to honor those who gave all they had when we needed them most. These heroes may no longer be with us, but their legacy still shines.
If you are a veteran or are still serving, I want to say how much I appreciate your willingness to carry this mission forward. Our world now is different in so many ways from the time of Washington, Jefferson and Lincoln, but the iron-clad commitment that our men and women in uniform give every day to duty, honor and country remains unchanged.
I encourage everyone to attend a Memorial Day event this coming three-day weekend, but if you cannot, please take a moment to recall those who gave all they had to make sure our country has all it needs.
President Kennedy had it right when he said, "As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter the words, but to live by them."