By Julian Hattem - 05/26/14 09:28 AM EDT
Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel on Monday praised the memory of those killed in combat in Iraq, Afghanistan and other conflicts since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
“Memorial Day is a time for citizens across this nation to remember and pay tribute to America's sons and daughters who sacrificed themselves in service to their country,” Hagel said in a statement.
The Monday holiday, he added, was a chance to make sure that their sacrifices are used to build a better country.
“This Memorial Day, as we honor our fellow countrymen who gave everything to a noble cause, we strive to be worthy of their great sacrifices as we all work toward making a better future for all mankind,” he said. “That will remain our task for generations to come.”
More than 6,800 American members of the armed forces have been killed since the September 11 attacks 13 years ago.
The war in Afghanistan has been the country’s longest ever conflict, but is set to end this year as American forces draw down and return home.