It’s a privilege to be with you as we observe Memorial Day. Today, we commemorate our fallen heroes for their courage and sense of honor, for their service and for their love of our country and defense of our most cherished principles.
They have given their lives in the name of freedom, and we owe them our deepest respect and gratitude. But even more, we owe them our allegiance to the principles that they gave so much for – freedom, justice, and equality. This is a time to reflect upon these ideals and their ultimate sacrifice, as we have on this day for the last 144 years.
Once called ‘Decoration Day’, Memorial Day was established May of 1868 as a day to decorate the graves of those killed in war with flowers. It was not until1971, however, that Memorial Day was designated a national holiday, as was appropriate to properly commemorate those who have served and paid the ultimate price.
Service to one’s country is a value that has been deeply ingrained in American heritage—and Georgia has a proud history of it. The 11th district is home to a great many of our nation’s bravest servicemen and women. All together, there are 50,000 active duty personnel and more than 30,000 reservists from our great state in the service.
Of those, the 11th District has lost 37 of the most courageous members of our Armed Forces. I’d like to take a few moments today toread honor our fallen:
1. Sgt. 1st Class Charles A. Warren - Resaca
2. Sgt. Brian D Ardon - Acworth
3. SSG Shannon V. Weaver – Hiram
4. Spec. Benjamin Bartlett Jr. – Manchester
5. Cpl. John C. Tanner – Columbus
6. Sgt. Michael C. Hardagree – Villa Rica
7. SSG Gregory L. Elam – Columbus
8. Sgt. Corey Spates – LeGrange
9. Sgt. William E. Allman - Rome
10. Spc. Ryan King – Temple
11. Spec. Jeffrey W. Jordan – Cave Spring
12. 1st Sgt. John D Blair – Calhoun
13. Lance Cpl. Charles Sharp – Adairsville
14. Specialist Issac Johnson – Columbus
15. Sgt. Edwin W. Johnson Jr. – Columbus
16. Spec. Justin W. Johnson – Rome
17. Airman 1st class Antoine J. Holt –Kennesaw
18. Spec. Marvin A. Camposiles – Austell
19. Pfc. Marquis A. Whitaker – Columbus
20. Pfc. Jesus Fonseca – Marietta
21. Sgt. 1st class David J. Salie – Columbus
22. Cpl. Tyler J. Dickens – Columbus
23. Sgt. John E. Megee – Columbus
24. Private John M. Henderson Jr. –Sharpsburg
25. Sgt. Thomas J. Strictland – Douglasville
26. Sgt. Paul A. Saylor – Hiram
27. Spec. Joshua P. Dingler – Hiram
28. Spec. Michael J. Stokely – Columbus
29. Capt. Hayes Clayton – Marietta
30. Staff Sgt. Ricky Scott – Columbus
31. Lance Cpl. Samuel W. Large Jr. – Villa Rica
32. Lance Cpl. Stephen F. Johnson – Marietta
33. Spc. Jaiciae L. Pauley – Austell
34. Spc. Brushaun X. Anderson – Columbus
35. Pfc. Jason H. Estopinal – Dallas
36. Pfc. Jacob A. Dennis – Powder Springs
37. 1st Lt. Jonathan P. Walsh - Kennesaw
These service members laid down their lives for our nation, as have so many Americans before them. Let us never forget their sacrifice. One group of Americans who deserve mention today are the Patriot Guard Riders. During a time of deep pain and grief, these ordinary Americans stepped forward to provide the families of fallen soldiers some comfort and peace.
The Patriot Guard Riders, founded at the American Legion Post 136 in Mulvane, Kansas in 2005, are a group of motorcycle riders who stand guard at military funerasl as they shield mourning families and friends from protestors. This coming week I will introduce a resolution honoring them. I’d like to share some of it with you today:
Whereas, the members of the Patriot Guard Riders willingly give their time, energy and money to respect the memory of fallen service members,
Whereas, the men and women who fight to preserve freedom deserve the utmost respect and support of the American people, the House of Representatives-
1. honors the Patriot guard Riders, and all of the volunteers involved in this worthy cause; and
2. recognizes the sacrifices our veterans, members of the Armed Forces, and their families have made, and continue to make for our nation.
Our local Patriot Guard Riders chapter was recently honored at the Northwest Cobb Chamber breakfast for their contributions to our community.
Military service touches the lives of so many Americans, especially here in Georgia. You would be hard-pressed to find someone who did not either personally serve or have a family member or friend who has served.
My father-in-law, Bill Ayers, was a member of the The Greatest Generation. He put a promising baseball career on hold in order to serve his country during World War II in Patton’s Third Army’s 65th Infantry. He was awarded the WWII victory medal, among other, but to him, his purpose was much greater than himself. He—as did many, many others—put his life and career on hold for his country. After completing his service, he resumed his career, playing with the New York Giants, the Minneapolis Millers and the Havana Reds in Cuba, but unfortunately never made it to the Big Leauges.
This is but one story of everyday American men and women who put their lives on hold to answer the call of service. Men like Bill Ayers didn’t join the service for the glory—they joined because they felt a deep desire to serve their country. They—and all of our veterans—deserve our deepest gratitude.
May is also Military Family Appreciation Month, and we are reminded of their great sacrifice as well. We shouldn’t just honor our military and their families one month a year, we should remember them always. A few of the families I am proud to have come to know are the Saylors and the Johnsons.
I was privileged to work with the Saylor family to ensure the remains of our fallen are treated with dignity and respect. The courage and commitment of the Johnson family is aweinspiring. Jan, affectionately known as “The General” has dedicated herself to selfless service by volunteering her time to the Patriot Guard Riders, the Freedom Riders and the Gold Star Mothers…
I encourage you to support military families through organizations like the USO or the Patriot Guard Riders, to send letters and care packages to the men and women serving overseas, and to keep soldiers and their loved ones waiting for them back home in your prayers.
Thank you for allowing me to be with you here today. May God bless our troops and their families, the great state of Georgia, and the United States of America.