By John Ubaldi
Contributor, In Homeland Security

To most Americans, Memorial Day means the unofficial start of summer, the end of the school year, backyard cookouts, car sales and vacations. But to many others the holiday has a far deeper meaning.

For them, it might mean a long, painful walk among the many white grave markers that  signify the generations of conflict this nation has endured until they come to the final resting place of their husband, mother, father, brother, sister, son or daughter.

For them, Memorial Day is the chance to solemnly remember their loved ones who died defending this nation so others can enjoy that barbeque.

On this Memorial Day, America’s youth are again in far off lands defending this nation from those that wish to do us harm.

Unfortunately, too many Americans are oblivious to or don’t fully appreciate those serving in the Armed Forces of this country. They are more interested in status and or in how the nation can benefit them; they’re not interested in wanting to defend its liberty and the principles on which the United States was founded.

Speaking to “Gold Star Parents” in 2012, current Homeland Security Secretary retired Marine Corps General John Kelly said, “Today the task is taken up by only 1% of America. The 1% all of us here tonight represent, whose children fill the ranks of our Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, and Marine Corps in barely enough numbers to defend us all. They are men and women of character who believed in this country enough to put life and limb on the line without qualification, and without thought of personal gain.”

Memorial Day: Understanding the Sacrifices of Our Service Men and Women

Far too often when individuals speak of their constitutional rights, they fail to understand that these rights have come with a huge sacrifice, the blood of brave men and women.

General Kelly knows all too well the pain of losing a child. His Marine infantry officer son was killed in Afghanistan.

In a speech he gave in 2010, at the Semper Fi Society in St Louis, Lt. General Kelly said, “If anyone thinks you can somehow thank them for their service, and not support the cause for which they fight, America’s survival, then they are lying to themselves and rationalizing away something in their lives. But, more importantly, they are slighting our warriors and mocking their commitment to the nation.”

Too many of us underappreciate the values exemplified by the U.S. Armed Forces. The sad part is they will never understand the freedoms they enjoy, freedoms that are denied to millions across the globe.

As we pause to reflect this Memorial Day, let’s take time to remember those who sacrificed themselves for the cause of freedom in Belleau Wood, the Argonne, Omaha Beach, Salerno, on Guadalcanal, Tarawa, Iwo Jima, Pork Chop Hill, The Chosin Reservoir, and in the jungles of Vietnam.

In our lifetime they have fallen in the Persian Gulf, Afghanistan, Iraq and Somalia.

Section 60 at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia is the final resting place of many of those men and women. They performed heroically and they follow in the time-honored tradition of their predecessor warriors.

We should always remember the fallen are not just names in the pages of a newspaper or heard on the nightly news. They all sacrificed themselves defending the values that this Republic stands for and for which millions around the globe yearn. That is, freedom.

Having served 30 years in the Marines with combat deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, I knew many of these brave men and women. I will never forget their sacrifice.

America should do the same.