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The observance of Memorial Day is one of our richest and most American of traditions, because it reminds us of the most basic of the beliefs on which our nation was founded - the belief that liberty is more precious than any gift and, sometimes, even more precious than the gift of life itself.

Every generation of Americans has grown up understanding that our nation and our democratic ideals were founded and have been preserved by men and women willing to put the well-being of our country ahead of their personal lives.In this "year of the Olympics," we're reminded of the men and women who serve our nation on active duty or through the reserve and guard components, who train just like the Olympic athletes - ever on guard and ready to move out in a minute's notice. These individuals are "Olympians" in their own right, training daily to become the best they can be in their duties.

During the Olympic torch run that traveled through Utah this month on its way to Atlanta, one of the people carrying the torch in the Ogden area was George E. Wahlen. A true hero, Wahlen is Utah's only living Congressional Medal of Honor recipient. He is one of Utah's leading advocates for veterans and veterans issues in Utah.

We have always been blessed with countrymen like Wahlen, willing to put their personal concerns aside and give their all for America. We are blessed to have people like that, for without them we would have nothing at all. America's veterans are heroes, champions for a great nation. And so it is that we must always take care to honor and preserve the memory of their sacrifices.

On this Memorial Day, let us not forget our nation's veterans and those who are still serving their country. We can pay no higher tribute to our dead nor render greater service to our nation this day than to instill in others who seemingly have no special reason for remembering the true spirit of Memorial Day. This is, in truth, a day for all Americans.

Doug Wadsworth

Director, VA Regional Office, Salt Lake City