Memorial Day Weekend isn't just about hot dogs, beaches, ballgames and a late May Monday off. It's about paying annual tribute to the more than 1 million Americans who have died serving in wars for the U.S. military.
And this Memorial Day should also serve as a reminder that we owe our veterans quality health care. As recent evidence of galling deficiencies at some VA medical facilities shows, our nation has lately fallen shamefully short on paying that fundamental debt.
But Americans will again give deserved salutes to both our dead and living military members today.
We'll see many more of our nation's flags flying - and hear some stirring speeches befitting the occasion.
President Barack Obama will extend that worthy oratorical tradition today in a ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery.
Last year our commander in chief delivered this moving Memorial Day message at the same site:
"Beyond these quiet hills, across that special bridge, is a city of monuments dedicated to visionary leaders and singular moments in the life of our Republic. But it is here, on this hallowed ground, where we chose to build a monument to a constant thread in the American character - the truth that our nation endures because it has always been home to men and women who are willing to give their all, and lay down their very lives, to preserve and protect this land that we love."
Another president offered a similar reminder of that debt we can never repay on May 26, 1986. As President Ronald Reagan put it on that Memorial Day at Arlington:
"Today is the day we put aside to remember fallen heroes and to pray that no heroes will ever have to die for us again. It's a day of thanks for the valor of others, a day to remember the splendor of America and those of her children who rest in this cemetery and others."
And: "We must always remember that peace is a fragile thing that needs constant vigilance. ... That, of course, is the lesson of this century, a lesson learned in the Sudetenland, in Poland, in Hungary, in Czechoslovakia, in Cambodia. If we really care about peace, we must stay strong."
And if we really care about our country, we must give thanks, and not just on Memorial Days, to those brave warriors who gave their all to keep us strong.