Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen H. Hicks paid tribute to service members who made the ultimate sacrifice and the families they left behind in a video message and statement released today.
In her statement, Hicks said:
"Each Memorial Day, we come together as a nation to express our gratitude and pay tribute to those fallen heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice in service and defense of this nation. It is our collective responsibility to never forget them, nor their surviving families, for all they have given to this country and the loss they've endured. To our Gold Star families, as [Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III] stated this morning, 'You will always be part of our military family.'
"This year, my staff and I visited Arlington National Cemetery to pay our respects to those brave and dedicated service members we've lost. It was a stark and timely reminder that each fallen hero has a story and that it is our sacred duty to carry their stories forward, honor their service and sacrifice, maintain their legacies, and support their surviving families now and in the years to come.
"This year, we commemorate the 50th anniversary of our all-volunteer force. This milestone was not an inevitability. Our force is the finest fighting force in the world because of those individuals who continue to raise their hand and commit to defending the nation and our Constitution against all odds.
"It is more important than ever that we understand the importance of public service and particularly military service, that we, as a nation, understand the deep and enduring commitment it takes to protect our freedoms, strengthen our democracy, and ensure our national security. And that we understand the debt we owe to our service members today and always for all they do to keep our nation safe."