By Representative Ryan Zinke:

Since the first battles at Lexington and Concord on April 19, 1775, American men and women have laid down their lives for something larger than themselves. When the first Memorial Day was celebrated in 1868, our nation remembered the nearly 750,000 Americans who died in a war that shaped our destiny and defined its character.

From WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, and the fights for freedom and peace from terrorism around the globe, the American troops have been a beacon of hope and a symbol of freedom and liberty from oppression for those who would seek peace for their families and their homeland. As the brave men and women of our military have proved for nearly 250 years, peace is not free and it is earned by those willing to fight for it.

Today I’m reminded of President Kennedy’s lofty aspirations: “Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.”

As a 23-year Navy veteran, I have attended too many funerals, folded too many flags and called too many families to deliver the most devastating message a mother, father, husband or wife could ever hear. I will always remember the price these men and women paid in defense of the values that make our nation the greatest on earth. Their sacrifice was not in vain. Rather, it inspires and awakens all the best traits each of has to offerwherever we serve.

I am reminded of the words of Abraham Lincoln at the battlefield at Gettysburg, when he said; “we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” This Memorial Day, and every day, we must thank the Marine, the Soldier, the Sailor, the Airman, and the Guardsman who laid down their lives so that we can be free. They embody the best our nation has to offer while inspiring the next generation to fill their shoes. I hope that all Montanans will join me in saluting their great sacrifice and remembering our honored fallen.