Memorial Day Message from the Secretary of Veterans Affairs



On May 24, Remember Heroes brought a group of volunteers to the Dallas Fort Worth National Cemetery to place floral arrangements on 2,400 gravesites.

On May 24, Remember Heroes brought a group of volunteers to the Dallas Fort Worth National Cemetery to place floral arrangements on 2,400 gravesites.

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.

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.

Eric K. Shinseki

Author

Eric K. Shinseki

Comments

  1. Arnold Leong    

    While it is easy to blame the secretary and demand his resignation, how about doing the same for our senators? How does one manage an organization when poor performers cannot be removed per the law? But the Senate, while infuriated at the VA scandal, refuses to make changes that would allow the VA Secretary to make the changes he might feel necessary. Tenure tends to make people care less about positive final outcomes.

  2. Phyllis White    

    The Honorable Eric .K Shinseki:
    I am having a problem re: the fact that for the 1st. time the American Flag has been placed on the Graves of only the Fallen.@ the National Cemetery in Bushnell FL.
    When I first heard this I was very Happy.But now just today ,on a very Special Day I am finding that the Flag’s were only placed ,as I stated on only the Fallen ones Graves.I take nothing away from them.But it seems to me any one who wore the Uniform of this great Country,deserve the Flag placed on their Graves. It’s just is very difficult for me to understand such as this.I understand there is Rank Privilege,but this is a different matter,at least in my eyes.I believe there are others that would agree/w me.
    My Son served & he is Buried In the National Cemetery in FL.I believe he deserves a Flag,the same as any other lower Ranking Troop..
    But I do hope that there will be a change in this procedure,next YR.I will even donate a flag or more than one.
    I am thanking you for your Service as well.But I hope that you can understand I ‘m not of the mind set of these Parents ,now day’s who think every Child deserves a Trophy.This is quiet a different matter.
    Hoping that you will think of making a difference in this .
    My Husband as well as my two older Sons served as well.
    Respectfully ,
    Phyllis White

  3. Valerie Lovingood    

    Dear Tom,
    May you be blessed, healed, & loved. The VA is a huge bureaucracy. May your voice rise to the top of the VA and above.

  4. Christine Nerheim    

    It came as a surprise to learn that the VA does NOT place flags at all National cemeteries. Thousands of volunteers have taken up that cause, purchasing flags and placing them, then returning the following day to retrieve the flags so as not to impede mowing. You are no longer Army Chief of Staff, sir, thanks for reminding me that you haven’t done anything mentionable for our Veterans in your current office.

  5. Harold Coghlan    

    Very we’ll said General, we who have served find it refreshing to hear your honest and emotional thoughts on the subject. Thank God for mothers willing to bear the sacrifice of their children, even if it is at times for conflicts we may not completely agree with in policy or execution.

    Have Blessed Memorial Day!

    Harold Coghlan
    CW4 (Ret)
    Army Aviator

  6. Tom Seifert    

    If you care so much please answer me and tell me why my VA branch just STOPPED giving me my prescription for my breakthru pain ?? I have a busted back and neck and was just informed U have a TUMOR on my brain ?? PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE HELP ME !!

  7. Charles LaRou    

    Did you make a call made to the families of Veterans that died on a waiting list ? Did you thank them for their service ? Sir, your comments seem so disingenuous in light of the performance of the Veteran’s Administration.

  8. John Puzzo    

    For you to interject yourself into this message is the height of hubris. Every person who reads your ‘Memorial Day Message’ is the poorer for it.

  9. Jeff Reichardt    

    As a retired general, knowing what true leadership means, you sir, should resign over the disgusting treatment of our vets. Leadership means the buck stops with you. How many leaders did you relieve for not getting the job done in your military career? I know it isn’t all your fault, but you failed to be involved enough in the process.

    Any man of honor would have already handed in their resignation. Why haven’t you?

  10. Donald G. Clayton    

    Well it only takes 6 moth for the VA to denied you claims before it was over 2 years… BUT why do they charge my health insurance company??????

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