Our duty to remember

As published in: Quad-City Times

Memorial Day is an important time in the Ernst household. Both my husband and I have had the privilege of serving the country that we love. But with that honor, we also remember those who have gone before us and paid the ultimate price in service to our nation.

As a young woman, I came across a Vietnam War memorial bracelet for then-Captain Laurent “Lee” Gourley from Villisca, Iowa. I called my mother, who grew up in Villisca, to see if she was familiar with the name. She informed me that then-Captainn Gourley was a classmate of my uncle’s who had gone missing in action as an Air Force pilot while flying a reconnaissance mission over Laos during the Vietnam War.

His family agonized, waiting to hear word about their young pilot. For years, I wore the memorial bracelet. It served as a constant reminder that this brave Iowan had not yet made it home.

Quite a bit of time passed before we learned of his outcome, who was ultimately promoted to Major. He had died in service to our country and his remains were returned back to the U.S., where he reached his final resting place.

Unfortunately, this story is not unique. Day in and day out, our brave men and women put on our nation’s uniform to preserve and protect our individual freedoms. When our country calls upon them to defend our rights, they stand ready and willing to make the ultimate sacrifice. History will not remember all those who have fallen, but our freedom stands as a constant reminder of what they have done; it cannot be forgotten nor overshadowed.

This Memorial Day, let us pause and give thanks to our armed forces, our veterans, and their families. In addition to honoring our war dead, we must also do our part to care for our brothers and sisters who have returned home. As your U.S. Senator, ensuring our veterans receive the timely and quality care they deserve is a top priority.

Our men and women have fought for us and defended us tirelessly. We would not enjoy the freedoms we have today without the sacrifice of our fallen heroes, like Major Gourley. God bless these selfless men and women. They serve as a testimony to the character of America. 

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