It was less than a year ago when our community of Colville, Wash., came together to bury a 28-year-old boy who lost his life in the name of American freedom. As a medic with the 3rd Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group in Operation Enduring Freedom, Staff Sgt. Wyatt A. Goldsmith was treating an Afghan commando when insurgents attacked his unit with a grenade. He lost his life in an effort to save someone else’s. He was a Green Beret soldier, serving his third overseas deployment, and was the recipient of three Purple Hearts. He was a devoted teammate, a loyal brother and the son of a mom and dad who got the phone call they hoped they never would.
As we come together this Memorial Day to honor those we have lost, let us remember that we are all Americans — bound forever by a common history and a shared duty to uphold the pillars of democracy and freedom that our founders bestowed upon us. Let us not be separated by political rhetoric or partisan divisions. Let us stand proudly together, laying wreaths and waving the American flag, to pay homage to those who have given their lives so we can more freely live ours.
As co-chairwoman of the Congressional Military Family Caucus, a proud representative of Fairchild Air Force Base, a former member of the House Armed Services Committee and the wife of a retired Navy pilot, I hold a special place in my heart for service members and their families. I talk to soldiers and their families every day about the sacrifices they make and the challenges they face. Both are tremendous. Today, our troops are answering America’s call to freedom all over the world. Soldiers and Marines are stationed across the globe. Air Force pilots fly the skies above Afghanistan. The Navy and Coast Guard stand watch over troubled seas. They have fought the evils of terrorism and advanced the great cause of liberty. But they are more than just courageous heroes on the battlefield. They are mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, husbands and wives. They kiss their children goodbye in the hopes that they will return. They are patriots. They are Americans.
In his famous Gettysburg Address, Abraham Lincoln — embroiled in a war to unite and preserve America — honored America’s soldiers with these words: “It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain.” More than a century later, Lincoln’s words still ring true. Today, let us remember where we come from: a nation that has always put unity above divisiveness and patriotism above politics. We come from a nation of heroes. We come from a nation of valor and courage and sacrifice. We come from a nation whose rich history makes me proud to call myself an American.
And so, on this Memorial Day, let us remember those heroes who have fought, and continue to fight, to protect our freedoms. Let us lay wreaths on their tombstones, carry their legacies in our hearts and honor the sacrifices they have made for this country and all of us. Let us remember Staff Sgt. Wyatt A. Goldsmith, his parents and his sister. And as we remember the fallen — with unwavering respect and solemn gratitude — let us come together, as Americans, committed to preserving and protecting the greatest nation on this Earth.
McMorris Rodgers is vice chairwoman of the House Republican Conference and a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. She represents Washington’s 5th congressional district, co-chairs the Congressional Military Family Caucus and is the highest-ranking Republican woman in the House.