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Good day.

This weekend, we honor the memory and the sacrifice of military men and women who have died in service to the United States of America.

The origins of Memorial Day date back to the Civil War, and the tradition of Decoration Days that were common in Southern States.

As the name suggests, communities set aside particular days to pay their respect to the men who had been killed.

The practice was soon adopted in the North, and after World War I it was expanded to honor fallen soldiers from all of the country’s wars.

Even while war rages today in Iraq and Afghanistan, we still struggle with the long shadows of fighting that ended long ago.

Last week, I attended the funeral of Staff Sgt. Glendon Harris. Sgt. Harris died more than 60 years ago while serving in the Army Air Corps in New Guinea.

While on a bombing mission, his B-25 was shot down by Japanese fighters. He and the rest of the flight crew perished in the jungle.

His remains were left unidentified, buried in the Tomb of the Unknowns in the Philippines, until new technologies finally caught up with old injustice.

On Saturday, Sgt. Harris finally came home to Maine.

Then on Monday, Air Force Col. Paul Getchell of Portland, a casualty from a different time and a different struggle – but with a similar story – was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery.

Col. Getchell was killed in action during a bombing mission over Laos in 1969. But his remains were not identified until recently.

Finally, for Col. Getchell’s family, the Vietnam War can be over.

We welcome both of these men home and remember their sacrifice, especially during this weekend.

There’s an inscription carved in the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Philadelphia.

It says, “Freedom is a light for which many men have died in darkness.”

Long ago, Sgt. Harris and Col. Getchell gave up their lives defending the United States of America, and the freedom and liberty we often take for granted.

It has been a long time, but this grateful nation hasn’t forgotten them or the millions of others who fought along side them. And we never will.

Unfortunately, our nation’s wars are not all in the past.

So, as we enjoy the start of summer here in Maine with a long weekend and in the company of family and friends, brave men and women are serving their country in war zones around the world.

Members of the Maine National Guard and Army Reserves are serving in Iraq, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Spain, Great Britain and around the world.

Every day, they do their duty. I am humbled by their dedication and commitment.

Too often during my term as Governor, I have placed calls to the families of young men who died in uniform.

There is terrible grief and sadness in those phone calls. But there is also pride and dignity in the voices of folks who have every reason to be upset.

Instead, they want to talk about their son, their husband, their father. They want me to know that they loved their country and what they were doing and that they were proud to wear its uniform.

So on Memorial Day, flags will be lowered around Maine until Noon, in honor and tribute to America’s fallen soldiers. Then the flags will be raised to the top of the staff until sunset, in honor of our country’s war heroes.

Since the birth of this nation, men and women have answered duty’s call. Many have laid down their lives and made the ultimate sacrifice.

So on this day when we remember, we pray for them and we pray for their families.

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