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Memorial Day: Honoring the heroes of America

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Located in Arlington, Virginia, Arlington National Cemetery is the most famous of more than 130 national cemeteries in America. An average of 27-30 funerals per day are held at Arlington National Cemetery.

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Arlington is also the most visited National Cemetery with more than four million visitors each year. Arlington was established in May 1864 as a final resting home for many Civil War soldiers.

At Arlington National Cemetery and other national cemeteries across the country, American flags will be placed one foot in front and centered in front of each grave marker in advance of Memorial Day.

U.S. Army soldiers with the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment, The Old Guard, adorn graves at Arlington National Cemetery, in an event known as "flags in," which dates to 1868.

The ceremony began to honor Union Soldiers who had fallen during the Civil War. The Old Guard today is responsible for placing flags in uniform rows on about 220,000 graves each year to observe Memorial Day.

Originally known as Decoration Day, the holiday was renamed Memorial Day following World War I and evolved into a day to honor the fallen from all wars. Once observed on May 30, Memorial Day has been observed on the last Monday in May since 1971.

On this day, we honor the heroes of America, brave men and women who gave the ultimate sacrifice to preserve and protect the freedom and liberty we all enjoy.

What makes a person a hero? Bravery, courage and integrity are three of the standards of heroism. The heroes we celebrate and honor on Memorial Day laid their lives on the line for others.

From parades and solemn observances to groups of scouts decorating graves of veterans, Memorial Day will be observed throughout America.

Memorial Day holds a special meaning for those families who have lost a family member in service to our country. Memorial Day also holds a special meaning for veterans and their families and those who are currently serving in the Armed Forces.

At Arlington National Cemetery, there will be a Wreath-Laying Ceremony at 11 a.m. at the Tomb of the Unknowns, followed by a Memorial Day Observance in the amphitheater.

My endless gratitude goes out to all who have given their lives in service to our country to advance freedom for all. To the families of those who were declared Missing in Action or taken Prisoner of War, thank you for your family member's sacrifice.

For those currently serving in the military and all veterans, thank you for the daily sacrifices you make in the name of freedom.

As we approach Memorial Day, I offer a special thanks to my first hero, my Dad, Robert Atkins, who served in World War II, Korea and Vietnam. Thank you for teaching us all the meaning of courage.

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