By Matt Nodine, AT&T Assistant Vice President of Federal Regulatory

(Lieutenant Colonel, United States Marine Corps Reserve)

Honoring America’s fallen warriors has a rich and storied history. Originally created to remember those who died during the Civil War, we now pause nationwide at 3 p.m. on the last Monday of May each year for a moment of silence to remember all who died in defense of the United States of America.

For most of us, Memorial Day is typically a day we head to the beach, pull the grill out of hibernation to barbecue with family and friends, or hit the recently opened neighborhood pool. And this is as it should be. Freedom has a flavor that should be enjoyed. But we should pause to solemnly realize that freedom’s flavor comes from the sacrifice of those who died for us to protect the freedom we cherish.

Unlike Veteran’s Day in November, Memorial Day is not the time to thank a veteran for their service; this is our time, as a Nation, to come together to honor and remember those brave Americans who gave their lives protecting liberty. It is the day we somberly remember their sacrifice. It is also a day I choose to extend honor and respect to the family members and friends left behind, and remember that the pain of their loss remains.

For me, Memorial Day is personal. With more than 18 years of service (and counting) in the United States Marine Corps, I’ve had the privilege of making acquaintances and forging friendships with many dozens of United States Marines who now lie buried in either Arlington National Cemetery or other cemeteries around the country. One aspect of those friendships is how these Marines always showed strength, grace, and, yes, humor, under fire. In fact, humor is one common thread that exists which seems to bind modern day service members together. Ever seen 1,500 hardened, battle tested United States Marines preparing to assault a fortified city quoting lines from The Princess Bride, Monty Python & the Holy Grail and Anchorman?

These types of stories – and many tens of thousands like them – live on in the memories of family and friends left behind, and will be remembered, relived, and retold this and every Memorial Day.

The first American widely viewed as killed in combat was Crispus Attucks who died at the Boston Massacre in 1770.   As of May 22, 2017, the latest casualty in the ever-present fight for freedom is Navy SEAL Senior Chief Special Warfare Operator Kyle Milliken.

In between these two heroes, lie a great number who fell – more than 650,000 Americans – each with their own stories, their own histories and their own families and friends. Each soul is precious to those who knew and loved them. One of those killed was First Lieutenant Dan Malcom, United States Marine Corps. Dan and I fought in the same battalion, First Battalion Eighth Marine Regiment, and I met him soon after joining the unit. He was killed by enemy fire on November 10, 2004, on a rooftop in downtown Fallujah, Iraq, while leading his platoon in Operation Phantom Fury. The Navy SEAL Team commander who was fighting beside him told me that Dan’s death was immediate, and for that we take comfort. Dan was a 2001 graduate of The Citadel, and a young man of profound belief and faith. An avid – and astute – chess player, Dan was probably one of the least auspicious commanders and leaders you could imagine; however, that quiet brilliance belied his tenacity and indomitable spirit. The Marines he led loved and respected him and, yes, trusted and followed him into the battle that ended his life.

Stories similar to Dan’s will be told and re-told on Memorial Day as those who lost friends and loved ones hold on to their memory; and, so long as these stories are retold, well, these heroes still live among us in some way.

At AT&T, we consistently honor and support our troops, and our value and support is not just lip service – it is quantifiable. As one example, in 2013, we committed to hiring 5,000 veterans. After we quickly reached that milestone, we progressively upped the ante and are now committed to hiring 20,000 veterans by the year 2020. In addition, AT&T is a founding member of the 100,000 Jobs Mission whose 180 corporate members are pledged to hire 300,000 veterans by 2020. Furthermore, AT&T senior leadership actively supports those of us in the Reserve or National Guard who continue serving our Nation.

Recognition for service to our great Nation is part of the fabric of AT&T’s culture, and we treasure the opportunity today to honor those who sacrificed for our freedom. So, to those who gave all for America, AT&T salutes you and thanks you from the bottom of our hearts. We will continue to do our part to honor your sacrifice for our country.   It’s the least we can do.

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