Here are all the Memorial Day messages from our senior leadership:
Assistant SECDEF for Health Affairs
This Memorial Day weekend represents both sadness and hope. We recognize the service of our fallen heroes, those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of our nation. This solemn remembrance comes on the heels of another type of war, the fight against COVID-19, which has taken the lives of service members and millions of others. Thankfully, we have made incredible progress against COVID-19, and much of the nation is beginning to return to normal.
That return to all the activities and events we have put on hold for so long comes with great risk if we don’t continue to exercise good judgement and keep safety top-of-mind. For that reason, I ask that you be mindful of your actions and take appropriate safety measures to protect yourselves and your loved ones from injury, illness and COVID-19. If you have teammates who may be alone or feeling isolated, please reach out to them, and make sure they’re taking care of themselves.
I know the last fifteen months have been trying and difficult for all of us. It’s why the vaccination campaign has been so important. It will save more lives and protect us, our friends, and family against hospitalization and death. It has enabled us to get back to normal. So, please consider getting vaccinated if you haven’t yet. They are widely available, they are safe, and as a doctor, I have the utmost confidence in each of the vaccines.
Thank you again for all your hard work, for helping the Military Health System fulfill its mission, for protecting our Department and our nation against COVID-19, and for ensuring we all have a bit less to mourn and remember.
I hope you all have a safe, restful and reflective Memorial Day.
Terry Adirim, M.D., M.P.H., M.B.A.
Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense – Health Affairs Department of Defense
This weekend, our nation pauses to remember all military personnel who have died while serving our Armed Forces. Their sacrifice is a true testament of selflessness. Before embarking on this long holiday weekend, let us reflect on why Monday is a federal holiday and a day off for many of us. The Old Farmer’s Almanac captures how and why we as a nation celebrate Memorial Day:
“The custom of honoring ancestors by cleaning cemeteries and decorating graves is an ancient and worldwide tradition, but the specific origin of Memorial Day-or Decoration Day, as it was first known-is unclear. In early rural America, this duty was performed usually in late summer and was an occasion for family reunions and picnics. After the Civil War, America’s need for a secular, patriotic ceremony to honor its military dead became prominent, as monuments to fallen soldiers were erected and dedicated, and ceremonies centering on the decoration of soldiers’ graves were held in towns and cities throughout the nation. After World War I, the day expanded to honor those who have died in all American wars.”
As we pause and give thanks to those who have gone before us, and gave their life to support the cause of freedom that we enjoy today, I am excited to share that Navy Medicine reached a significant milestone this past Tuesday when NMRTC Camp Lejeune administered the one-millionth vaccine across our Navy and Marine Corps sites. This milestone demonstrates the hard work, resilience, and dedication of our One Navy Medicine Team. Since the start of vaccination operations, more than 60% of Naval personnel have received at least one dose and more than 50% tare fully immunized. Thank you for rolling up your sleeve and contributing to our defense against this virus.
COVID continues to be a force readiness issue and there is no better protection for our people, their families, or communities than getting vaccinated. For those that have not vaccinated, I ask that you pause and reflect on the dedication of those who have come before us and then reconsider your reservations. Rededicating yourself to the health and protection of yourself and those you serve with is one great way to honor their sacrifice. In the words of President John F. Kennedy, “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.”
Thank you for all you continue to do to take care of our Sailors, Marines, and their families. I am humbled and honored to work with you, the incredible Navy Medicine professionals who ensure our warfighters are ready, healthy, and mission-ready.
With my continued respect and admiration,
Bruce L. Gillingham, MD, CPE, FAOA
RADM, MC, USN
Surgeon General, U.S. Navy
Chief, Bureau of Medicine and Surgery
Defense Health Agency
The freedoms we enjoy in this country were not given but earned – generation after generation – through the courage of many Americans who took great risks, who fought for a cause in which they believed, who put service above self. As a nation, we ask our men and women in uniform to be prepared to make these sacrifices every day. Sometimes, that sacrifice is borne by a family in mourning, creating an irreplaceable void in lives, and acknowledged by a carefully folded flag handed down with reverence. This coming Monday is Memorial Day, a time set aside to honor and remember those military members who gave what Abraham Lincoln described as “their last full measure of devotion.”
To the families and friends of those who have lost loved ones, thank you. Many of us will all be setting aside time this weekend, thinking of you, and praying for you. To our medical professionals who have been there to witness service members take their last breath, thank you for being there and giving your all.
This Memorial Day weekend is accompanied by signs of hope and recovery from the pandemic that has changed our lives. As we get vaccinated, we’re looking forward to family gatherings, sporting events, vacations, and other freedoms some of us previously took for granted. We have a range of emotions, including a little worry and perhaps a lot of excitement!
It’s important that we don’t forget the fundamentals as we venture outside. Stay hydrated, use sunblock, remember common-sense safety tips in the water activities, and be mindful of the potential dangers of alcohol. If you’re jumping in the car, make sure it’s service is up to date, and pay extra attention to the other drivers who might not be paying attention to you. This is the time of year when motorcycles are out in force and most fatal motorcycle accidents happen because motorists don’t see them. The DHA is kicking off our summer safety campaign and there are many resources to help you have a safe and happy summer. To see some of the summer safety resources, visit https://www.health.mil/Military-Health-Topics/Total-Force-Fitness/Environmental-Fitness/Summer-Safety .
And while we can see a future where the pandemic is officially declared over, we aren’t there yet. The best protection is vaccination. But, depending on your location and vaccination status, modified masking and physical distancing guidance still apply. Let’s stay on track to defeat COVID.
I wish all of you a safe and peaceful Memorial Day.
Ronald J. Place, MD
LTG, US Army
Director, Defense Health Agency