On Memorial Day we honor and remember the men and women who have given their lives in service to the United States.

These fallen heroes made the ultimate sacrifice defending our liberties.

While the coronavirus pandemic has changed the way we gather to honor and pay homage to those who have fallen while proudly wearing the American uniform, we remain united in our appreciation of their patriotism, courage, and commitment to our country.  

Our world, and our lives, have been disrupted by this pandemic. However, we must make time to remember the past, the sacrifices, the bodies of fallen heroes throughout Europe, Southeast Asia, the South Pacific, the Middle East, and even here at home.

We must remember that the men and women of our armed forces serve all Americans — Democrats and Republicans, conservatives and liberals. The American soldiers we honor today were us —  our sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, our fathers and mothers, our neighbors, and our friends. The men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice were soldiers who volunteered, many were drafted without a choice. Yet, they all courageously answered the call to serve our country and died for our freedom and the freedom of others.

On this Memorial Day, a sacred day, we must remember not to take our liberty and our nation’s independence for granted – freedom requires sacrifice. The fallen Americans we honor carry on the legacy that freedom is not free but that it often requires the utmost sacrifice and service so that our families can enjoy life as it is today. It is also important to remember that the sacrifice was not only from our soldiers, but also from their families at home who sacrifice while their loved ones are away, waiting for their safe return. To the families of the fallen, we owe an immeasurable debt for their suffering, pain, heartache, and the strength to endure each day with the loss of a loved one. 

As a Vietnam veteran for the United States Marine Corps, I understand the difficult sacrifices that our military families endure on a daily basis. Every day of my life as I smell the flowers, hear the birds sing, feel the wind and enjoy my freedom, I am grateful for my safe return home. However, I also forever live with the constant memory and scars of those battlefields decades ago and remember my fellow Marines who did not return home. In Vietnam I lost several high school classmates — Jesus Martinez, Walter Merle Langford, and Leonel Buentello — I am grateful to them for their service and sacrifice.

This Memorial Day, our observance of this special day may be different, but our feeling of great appreciation to those who have died in service to our nation, and to their families, is stronger than ever. I encourage us all to take a minute and think of the tremendous work and sacrifice required so that we may continue to enjoy our American way of life. Today, honor the patriotism, courage, and valor of those who died defending this great nation of ours, the United States of America.

Editor’s Note: The above op-ed was penned by state Sen. Juan Hinojosa, a Vietnam War veteran. The op-ed appears in The Grande Guardian with the permission of the author. To reach Sen. Hinojosa phone (512) 463-0120.

Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying the above op-ed shows soldiers with the 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) placing flags at headstones in Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Va., during flags-In, May 23, 2019. Over 280,000 American flags are placed at each headstone in the cemetery before Memorial Day. (Photo: Sgt. Nicholas T. Holmes/Army)

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