This past August, I attended the funeral of Brian Bill — a Stamford, Conn., native and Navy SEAL who perished along with 29 other American service members and eight Afghans when their Chinook helicopter was shot down during a rescue mission in eastern Afghanistan.

Bill was a remarkable young man who led a life of service, achievement and significance. He was an accomplished skier, mountaineer, pilot and triathlete. He was fluent in French and self-taught in Russian. He had plans after completing his military service of going to graduate school and becoming an astronaut. For Bill’s future, the sky had no limit. 

Above all, Bill was a patriot. He made the choice to dedicate his life to a cause greater than himself, and that cause was our country.

On this Memorial Day, we remember fallen heroes like Bill — a pantheon of extraordinary American men and women whose service and sacrifice span our history and have, quite literally, made America possible. From the beaches of Normandy to the orchards of Kandahar, from Bunker Hill to Chosin, and from Little Round Top to Sadr City, we owe our liberty and security as a nation to the courageous Americans who never came home from these places, and to those heroes — family and friends, neighbors and strangers — who survived.

In the decade since the attacks of Sept. 11, more than 6,000 of our fellow citizens have joined the American honor roll — giving their lives in the defense of our country and the eternal values it stands for. 

There are no words adequate to express our debt to these fellow Americans, or to answer the grief of the loved ones left behind. But we can and must strive to honor their memories by ensuring that their sacrifices were not in vain, and that we give our full measure of devotion to the cause for which they gave their lives.

At a moment in our history when many Americans are filled with doubt about our future, when too much partisanship pervades our politics and too much selfishness hurts our economy, our patriotic fallen can remind all of us that America is still a land of heroes, whose example should both humble and inspire us. Their lives remind us that, as Americans, we have repeatedly done what others said was impossible and that we can continue to break barriers and achieve greatness in the years ahead.

Lieberman is a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee.

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