Memorial Day is about so much more than summer barbeques and bright, candy-filled parades. It is a time to honor the service and sacrifice of our brave men and women in uniform.
Established in the wake of massive Civil War casualties, Memorial Day was initially called Decoration Day. Every year on May 30th, after weeks of preparation, members of the military – joined by ladies’ societies, veterans, a band and schoolchildren towing wagons full of flowers – would march in detailed precision to decorate the graves of fallen soldiers. Afterwards, everyone would gather in local churches for memorial services honoring those who gave their lives fighting for our nation’s freedom.
Many of us know someone who once served in the military or someone who is currently stationed overseas. We keep their names, faces and stories in our hearts as we pause and give thanks for their selfless devotion to their country, and we remember those who have gone before them.
Ohio has suffered the loss of 275 brave soldiers since 2003. We are proud to claim them as Buckeyes and humbled to remember their courage. Here in the Ohio Senate, we seek to pass legislation that honors the memory of the fallen and lightens the burden on the families they left behind. In 2014, we passed a bill to designate State Route 67 in Auglaize County as the “Staff Sgt. Sonny Zimmerman Memorial Highway.” State Sgt. Zimmerman lost his life while stationed in Afghanistan in July 2013. While we can never truly thank people like Staff Sgt. Zimmerman for their tremendous sacrifice, measures like this are a small way to demonstrate our gratitude to his wife, daughter and all the loved ones he left behind.
While Memorial Day is a day to remember those who have fallen in the line of duty, it is important to remember that those who made it back home have made incredible sacrifices as well. We in the Senate must do all we can to support Ohio’s veterans. One example of the support we try to offer is a bill currently under consideration in a Senate committee that would standardize veteran identification cards in Ohio. If passed, this bill will ensure that veterans who are currently unable to receive a veteran ID card from the federal government or their local registrar’s office still have the opportunity to access restaurant and retail discounts, job applications benefits and veteran hospital services. Our veterans put their lives on the line in service to our country. When they come home safely, it is our turn to serve them. We honor the fallen by caring for the living.
Whether you take time this Memorial Day to place a bouquet on the grave of a loved one or march in a parade, this weekend is an opportunity for all of us to express gratitude for the sacrifice that preserves our freedom.