Americans are fortunate to live in a country where most treat the day set aside to memorialize those who died in their country’s service as merely the start of the summer vacation season as pools open and a three-day weekend is enjoyed. That is a function of the fact that it has been decades since the United States was embroiled in a war in which a significant portion of its young were obligated to participate. One need only look to Israel to see what it means to live in a country where there are few who do not know of a family that has suffered losses incurred in the defense of the nation. Their Memorial Day, though set in the day before independence celebrations, is one of somber mourning, not store sales.

So while Americans can be grateful for being spared that kind of suffering in recent generations, it is still incumbent upon us to spare a moment to think on the sacrifice of those who are currently fighting to defend our freedoms as well as the many who did so in the past.

From the beginning of our nation’s history to the present, there have always been those who were ready to take up the challenge of defending American liberty. They have done so in peace and war and many have paid the ultimate price so that this experiment in democracy might live. Though some of us might prefer to think these struggles are ending, the enemies of freedom have not yet given up. That means some of our fellow citizens will continue to place themselves in harm’s way to defend America. Some will die and others will be wounded or maimed. They deserve our respect and our help. But their efforts should also motivate us to do our best to ensure that our republic and all it stands for persists as a beacon of freedom.

On this weekend, and every other day of the year, let’s honor those who served in the past as well as those who continue to do so. Their sacrifices must never be forgotten.