Thank the Fallen:
Be an American Worth Fighting For

bird and flowers Tulsa
Memorial Day was once known as Decoration Day. This beautiful mural is a symbolic reminder of its 1800s name.

Memorial Day is the day our country pauses to remember and honor those who have died in the performance of their military duties. It’s celebrated on the last Monday in May. And, today, in Georgia, it is a beautiful day to feel the loving spirit of those who lost their lives.

In my professional life as a public servant, I have worked with tens of thousands of people who have shared their personal family stories about their loved ones who gave their lives in duty to protect and serve us all. I am so grateful to my family members and the servicemen and women who sacrificed to protect our nation, preserving the principles of our democracy:

Freedom of assembly. Freedom of speech. Inclusiveness and equality. Voting rights. Right to life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness. Minority rights.

These are principles I believe in and am so thankful to those who made it possible for me to enjoy them as a citizen. Thank you to the families who have braved life without their loved ones so that we could stand stronger as a nation.

LaResha Boykins "Black Wall Street Mothers"
A contemporary art piece called “Black Wall Street Mothers” in a local gallery where the Tulsa riots took place.

As our nation’s history often goes, it is riddled with celebrations and contradictions. Today also marks the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre, one of the worst incidents of racial violence in American history. A few years ago, I visited the sitting superintendent of the Tulsa Public Schools and toured and learned about the area where a white mob’s attack on the city’s affluent Black neighborhood, including its “Black Wall Street”, left the community obliterated.

A century later, much like the 1906 race riot of Atlanta, the legacy of that incident is still being felt in the social fabric and race relations of the city today. There is no doubt in my mind that these Black residents, albeit not in the military, were protecting the very same principles in their hometowns that our servicemen and women lost their lives to preserve.

Our country has always struggled; our democracy will always be challenged. This past year has been hard on all of us as we reflect on who we want to be together, united in the fight against threats both domestically and abroad.

I am remembering – and invite you too as well – as I hold on to the collective memory of those who gave the ultimate sacrifice, their lives, as we honor them today on Memorial Day:

“If you want to thank a soldier, be the kind of American worth fighting for.” – Unknown

quote memorial day

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