VA Secretary Shinseki Memorial Day Message

VA Sec. Eric Shinseki Photo credit: va.gov

VA Sec. Eric Shinseki Photo credit: va.gov

The following is a message written by Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki and posted on the VA blog,  VAntage Point.

For anyone who has witnessed the media coverage and congressional scrutiny that Shinseki has endured in recent weeks, this message may provide you insight into the true soldier and his sole mission to care for men, women and families who serve in the U.S. military.

If you do nothing else to commemorate Memorial Day, read the words of this decorated Vietnam veteran.

By Eric K. Shinseki

Memorial Day is our most solemn national holiday. It is a unique time for both celebration and poignant remembrances. We celebrate our freedom and way of life through backyard barbeques, ballgames, and beach outings. But, we also pause to remember our fallen in ceremonies mourning the loss of those who gave their lives so that we might live ours in peace and freedom.

At its core, the eloquence of Memorial Day speaks of personal sacrifice for a greater, common good. It resonates in the stories of ordinary Americans, who fought and died, drawing on extraordinary inner strength and determination to preserve our nation. They did so out of an abiding sense of duty and immense personal courage.

??????????I have a friend named Ruth Stonesifer. Ruth is one of the many Gold Star Mothers who have given their children in service to our nation. They and their families are all wonderful examples of strength, courage, and generosity.

Ruth and I first met by telephone in late October 2001, when I was then serving as the Army Chief of Staff. Her son Kris had just been killed in Afghanistan, one of two Army Rangers—our first casualties in a war that is still being fought today by our magnificent men and women in uniform. It was a phone call no parent ever wants to receive, and that I did not ever wish to make.

At a time of deepest grief, when my call was an intrusion into their anguish, mothers and fathers like Ruth Stonesifer shared their hearts with me. They helped me through my own sorrow. And they made me even more proud of their children. Often, I was the one who was consoled during those phone calls.

Stonesifer_Ruth

Ruth Stonesifer. Photo courtesy of Gold Star Moms.com

I do not know what would have happened if that first phone call to Ruth had not gone well. But she was so strong, so generous, and so comforting that I went on to reach out to as many families of the fallen as I could during my tenure as chief—to try to express the inexpressible; to try to assuage the unbearable; and to say “Thank You” on behalf of a grateful nation, when no measure of gratitude could ever fill the void left by the loss of a child.

Memorial Day is a time for remembrance, reflection, and respect—for honoring the men and women who gave their lives serving the United States of America. We pay homage to their willingness to sacrifice themselves for love of country.

Let us never forget Ruth and Kris Stonesifer—or the countless others who have given so much in service to our nation. Let us strive to honor the memory of the fallen by living out, in our everyday lives, the principles, ideals, and values for which these Americans—forever young, forever brave, forever loved—gave their lives.

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One Response

  1. we celebrate men who sacriced their life, who reported for so relevant health problems but did so with joy for us all, We celebrate their commitment, will, braverie, humanity, that are their essence, on a word we celebrate their honor, the same we tribute them. All they have made exprime what is a man of valor, what he do and for he do. Our celebration is a manner to say them thanks buddies, members of a big family of whom all we are members. You are teachers, your life teach us and young generation more, for it is the constatation of what are the real valors, what signify defend freedom and human rights and how that is to be made. Thanks for all. Our thoughts and appreciations are so big we may not exprime them, but our hearts are speaking for us on a mute language that is heard by all. claudio alpaca

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