Born from the immense losses of the Civil War, Memorial Day is our national day to remember and honor those service men and women who gave their lives in defense of our country. Mottos like “Never Forget” remind us to pay tribute to the fallen, but the truth for those military families who have borne the loss of a loved one is that the pain is often too great, the sacrifice too real for them to ever have the luxury of “forgetting.”

Against their will, Gold Star families become members of America’s most exclusive club — a club that they would never wish to join, but nonetheless do so with phenomenal grace and courage. These Gold Star families carry the torch of remembrance and on Memorial Day, we honor those who sacrificed for us.

In Maine, we are remarkably fortunate to have torch bearers everywhere, as our state’s contributions to our nation’s defense are historic, extensive and deep. From the Civil War to the present day, 67 Medal of Honor recipients hailed from Maine. In total, 6,995 servicemen and women from Maine have died in combat, from the Civil War to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Our country’s latest combat casualty was Navy Seal Kyle Milliken of Falmouth. In 1993, Medal of Honor recipient Master Sgt. Gary Gordon of Lincoln was one of the country’s last casualties in Somalia.

Memorials across the state pay tribute to Mainers like Kyle, Gary and their families who have made the ultimate sacrifice. In 1965, 110 miles of the Maine Turnpike was dedicated as the Gold Star Memorial Highway — a road that symbolizes the greatest toll allows us to travel the greatest distance.

This weekend, cemeteries across our state — including the four Maine Memorial Veterans’ cemeteries — will have American flags proudly waving next to veteran headstones. The Moving Wall has come to Maine nine times, including last year at the Knox Museum in Thomaston and earlier this month in Dexter. And almost every town in Maine has an honor roll etched in granite.

There are also ways to remember and honor Mainers’ sacrifice all year long, and they are worth your time. The Summit Project is a living memorial that hosts hikes and tributes to honor the fallen from the most recent conflicts. Annually, the University of Maine remembers Marine 1st Lt. James Zimmerman with a Community Fitness Challenge. In June, Gold Star Mom Nancy Kelley and the Old Orchard Beach community will be honoring her son, Army Capt. Christopher Cash, in the 13th annual Run for Cash. The Maine Fallen Heroes Foundation holds an annual run in August called Run for the Fallen.


But sometimes the easiest act has the greatest impact. If you know a service member or military family in need, please encourage them to contact the Maine Bureau of Veterans’ Services. Whether they are a veteran, a family member or currently serving and transitioning from the military, the Maine Bureau of Veterans’ Services is a ready partner to help them understand and navigate the benefits, services and programs available to them and their loved ones. We can be found at

With less than 1 percent of our country serving in uniform, the call to “Never Forget” is unfortunately carried by an ever-shrinking portion of our society. So on this Memorial Day — and throughout the year — I invite you to join me in actively choosing to remember those who have died in service to our nation.

Stop to read the honor roll in your town; visit The Summit Project stones at the Military Entrance Processing Station in Portland, or volunteer at a Maine Fallen Heroes Foundation event. And when you pay your toll on the Gold Star Highway, “Never Forget” to acknowledge the ultimate price paid by Maine’s Gold Star families to whom it was dedicated.

Adria Horn is director of the Maine Bureau of Veterans’ Services in Augusta.

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