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As we get ready to commemorate Memorial Day weekend and enjoy the first outdoor celebration of the season, I hope all of us will take a moment to reflect on the meaning of this holiday: to remember the brave men and women who gave their lives in service to the United States as members of the armed forces.
What you may not know is that Memorial Day used to be called Decoration Day. That’s the name General John Logan gave the holiday when he originated it on May 5, 1868. On May 30 of that year, and every year since, flowers have been placed on the graves of soldiers at Arlington Cemetery and on the graves of military heroes throughout our great country. And over this weekend, loved ones, military members and Americans from every corner of this nation will place flowers on the resting places of our fallen heroes.
Here at the headquarters of the Office of Personnel Management, we are paying tribute to our fallen service members with a Missing Military Service Member table. The table contains several small items that all hold a special significance. An upside down wine glass is a reminder that the missing cannot join their loved ones in toasts. A single red rose signifies the blood that was shed to ensure our freedom. And a candle, to light the way home. The table honors the great sacrifices made by so many, particularly prisoners of war and those missing in action.
Since becoming OPM Director more than six months ago, I have had the honor to meet with veterans at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio and Thursday at Fort Carson and Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs.
Their stories of courage and resolve inspire me. I met with service members and their families who attended a Military and Veterans Employment Expo in Colorado Springs. Federal agencies and private employers talked with service members about making the transition to civilian life and with Veterans looking for a new career opportunity. I also talked with women service members about their options as they face their own decisions about their futures.
I am very proud that this past year was another record year for hiring Veterans for the Federal workforce. Of the 162,000 Federal employees we hired in fiscal 2013, 50,000 were Veterans. And we want to keep that number growing. I am thankful that after serving our country while in uniform, so many Veterans want to continue to serve by joining the civilian Federal workforce.
So this Memorial Day, let us take a moment to think about all those who have made the ultimate sacrifice to keep our nation free. Let’s think about loved ones we have lost. Let us think about the fallen millions whose names we will never know.
And while we’re at it, let us thank the brave men and women who now wear the uniform. Thank you for your service, now and always.
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