Through this pandemic and the uncertainty around it, we as a nation have pulled together to persevere. From the monumental acts of selflessness by our health care workers and first responders to the small acts of kindness we display to each other, our country has learned to survive and thrive.

As Memorial Day occurs during these unpredictable times, there is one certainty that solidifies all of us as a nation. It is the honor, gratitude and dignity we have for the generations of military men and women who have paid the ultimate price defending our country and protecting our freedom.

This year we may not have the parades, ceremonies or gatherings, but the reverence of our nation for our fallen soldiers, our warrior citizens, our heroes, continues to burn strongly in our hearts. 

Memorial Day was officially declared a holiday in 1868 by General John Logan, originally under the name “Declaration Day.” He had fought alongside countless brave men who had lost their lives and, like many, wanted a day dedicated to their memory. He created Memorial Day for the United States to collectively remember and memorialize the military members who lost their lives fighting for our freedom. It was also decided to be celebrated at the end of May as flowers are in full bloom and the nation is at its most beautiful.

On this national holiday, the American flag is lowered to the half-staff position, staying there until noon. It is then raised to full-staff for the remainder of the day. This unique tradition, which only occurs on Memorial Day is significant: The first part of the day honors those who sacrificed their lives, and the second part of the day honors those who are still here.

The Veterans One-stop Center provides free programs, services and resources to veterans, service members and their families in Western New York. We are here because of the brave American soldiers who lost their lives protecting this nation and preserving the freedom and democracy of the United States of America. Through the generosity of the community, the Veterans One-stop Center is able to serve the brave men and women of the nation's armed forces with benefits, employment, education, financial counseling, legal services, our peer support program, the PFC. Joseph P. Dwyer Program, and services to help veterans make the transition from military to civilian life.

On Memorial Day, take a pause in your day to remember the soldiers who lost their life fighting for their country. Remember their sacrifice, their patriotism, their loyalty and their valor. Remember that all of the freedoms we enjoy today are because of them.

Although this Memorial Day will have a different look, the American people will still be collectively remembering and recognizing their fellow citizens who gave their life in the name of the United States of America.


Chuck Marra is president and CEO of the Veterans One-stop Center of Western New York. 

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