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Governor Dayton's Remarks at the Fort Snelling National Cemetery Memorial Day Ceremony

May 26, 2014

Governor Mark Dayton's remarks as prepared for delivery at the Fort Snelling National Cemetery Memorial Day Ceremony. 

"Memorial Day is a very special day for our country, when we pause to remember, honor, and appreciate those heroic Americans, who gave their lives for all of us.

"It is a day, when I recall that one of the most difficult, yet important, responsibilities of a Governor or a United States Senator is to attend the funeral services of Minnesota servicemen and women, who have lost their lives defending our country.

"I remember the burial service of Major Robert Olson, in Littlefork, about 9 miles below the Canadian border. It was a very cold December day, so all of us Minnesotans were well-insulated.

"However, the surviving members of Major Olson’s battalion had flown directly from Hawaii to northern Minnesota. They wore uniforms better suited for a 4th of July parade. And nothing else. Yet they stood ramrod straight through the lengthy outdoor service.

"As we were leaving, I asked one of the soldiers, “Aren’t you guys cold?” He gestured toward the casket and replied, “It’s nothing, compared to him.”

"Memorial Day should remind us that the mishaps, mistakes, and misunderstandings, which usually fill our days and nights, are “nothing” compared to what befell Major Olson and everyone else, who made that ultimate sacrifice to protect our country.

"And yet, uniquely, Memorial Day is the only day each year, on which the American Flag is flown at half-staff for only half-a-day – from sunrise until 12 noon. Then it is to be raised briskly to full-height, where it flies until sunset.

"It seems odd that, to commemorate heroic one death, we lower our flags to half-staff for the entire today. However, to commemorate the heroic deaths of over a million Americans, we lower our flags for only half-a-day.

"I’m told we follow this protocol to make a very important statement. We first honor our fallen heroes. We thank them – and their families – for their enormous sacrifices. Then, at noon, we, the living, raise our flags and resolve not to let their sacrifices be in vain. We vow to stand strong in their stead and ensure that the light of freedom shines brightly, forever."