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Last month, I was honored to visit our brave troops in Afghanistan, giving me a chance to get a firsthand look at the challenges they are facing, and to thank them on behalf of all Ohioans for their service to our country. I took a bunch of Cleveland Indians and Cincinnati Reds baseball caps that were a big hit. Even though they are thousands of miles away, our troops are staying up with their families and friends and what’s going on back home.
The men and women I saw are on the front-lines of the War on Terror and doing a terrific job. In fact, it was just several days after my visit to Afghanistan that an elite group of our military found and killed Osama bin Laden, the terrorist mastermind behind the deaths of thousands of Americans and other innocent people.
A sense of pride and national unity was evident among all Americans in the days following the announcement of that successful operation. We witnessed that pride and unity nearly ten years ago after the attacks of 9/11 and before that in Desert Storm during the liberation of Kuwait. Americans have always united for a common good and will continue to do so in the future.
We may live in politically polarizing times, but we also live in an America protected by the same blanket of security woven by the countless sacrifices and acts of heroism that have guaranteed our freedoms decade after decade. Sometimes those sacrifices happen in quiet, unnoticed acts of bravery. Other times they happen with more fanfare and publicity.
In either case, those who serve now, or those who served in the past, did not dedicate their lives to the cause of a divided nation. They fought and sometimes died because of their belief in the values for which America has long stood – freedom and democracy and an America that is one nation, under God, indivisible.
The freedoms we enjoy today exist because of the blood and sacrifice of the brave men and women who, through more than two centuries of American history, have proudly worn the uniform of our country.
Each time we peacefully gather to worship in the faith of our choice, we do so because Americans have risked their lives to defend our freedom of worship and assembly.
Every time we cast a vote in an election, that opportunity is afforded us by heroic members of our Armed Forces who sometimes made the ultimate sacrifice to guarantee freedom and democracy back home.
When we criticize our government leaders or raise our voices in protest or complaint, we are exercising our freedom of speech under the giant shadow cast by those of courage and commitment who repeatedly fought back the forces of tyranny and oppression.
Americans come together in times of national crisis, tragedy or triumph. But it should not require an event as horrific as the attacks of 9/11 or as consequential as finally ridding the world of the terrorist leader bin Laden to unite us as Americans.
However ordinary or routine the daily exercise of our precious freedoms may seem, we should never fail to remember their cost. Whether it’s because our troops have brought justice to the murderer of three thousand innocent Americans, or because they have, through their vigilance, simply kept America safe for another peaceful day, our daily appreciation should bind all Americans in a shared sense of purpose.
I wish you and your family all the best this Memorial Day. Like many Ohioans, I am looking forward to a backyard barbecue with friends and family. I will also be at a Memorial Day parade in Brecksville, outside Cleveland, and a veterans’ memorial in Columbus.
This weekend, we all stand together to honor the memory of those whose service and sacrifice have preserved our freedoms from generation to generation.