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BALFOUR: Remember the men and women who died for us

The day my son Trey returned from Afghanistan was one of the happiest days of my life; another was the day Trey decided to serve his country. Throughout our country's great history, countless men and women, just like my son, have made sacrifices far beyond those that we can imagine in order to serve our nation.

They have sacrificed seeing the birth of their first child, important time with their spouses and families, they have missed countless birthdays and holidays, and some have even sacrificed their lives.

We have a long history of men and women battling for the United States of America, from the Revolutionary War in 1775 to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. During the Revolutionary War, our defense was farmers and blacksmiths, men who were not formally trained like the British. They fought for the right to have a chair at the table, for the right to have a voice in our government. We lost more than 4,000 brave souls in the revolutionary war, but we won our freedom.

In World War II, troops fought to defend our rights after the attack at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. We would not and did not stand for an attack on our soil. As President Franklin D. Roosevelt said, "We, and all others who believe in freedom as deeply as we do, would rather die on our feet than live on our knees." We achieved victory but lost more than 290,000 brave troops.

While distinguished American troops have fought and died bravely in WWI, WWII, the Korean War, Vietnam and the Gulf War, their job is not yet finished. Today, we are fighting in the Middle East against terrorism and radicalism against a new threat to our safety and freedom. Our nation continues to fight with bravery, valor and dignity. We will continue to fight, because the men and women who serve in the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard and National Guard won't stop until the job is done. We must continue supporting them in every way possible and pray for their quick and safe return.

It is an unfortunate truth that in today's time many Americans rarely have an opportunity to thank a soldier. Join us for Gwinnett's Army National Guard Infantry Unit Military Parade on June 5 in Lawrenceville beginning at 9 a.m. as we welcome the brave soldiers of Georgia's 48th Infantry Brigade. This is an excellent opportunity to thank these soldiers in person.

Bring your whole family and teach your children the meaning of our nation's great military history, as you pass a soldier's on to future generations. We must not let the sacrifices that have been made in our name be forgotten.

I encourage you to find troops from your community. Join with others to see how you can support the families left behind. Get to know them, and find out how you can assist them; contribute to the National Guard Family Support Foundation by visiting www.georgiaguardfamily.org or send a check to the Foundation at 5019 Highway 42 Suite 203, Ellenwood, GA 30294-3438.

Please support those who are putting their lives on the line to protect our freedoms. Troops overseas appreciate our thoughts and prayers, and they will also gain comfort from knowing that their families are being supported. Ginny and I are blessed to have Trey safely home, but for several Georgia families they do not share the same comfort of having their loved ones home.

So this Memorial Day, as you enjoy time with your friends and family, remember these fallen Georgia troops whose families will be remembering them.

* Spc. Brushaun Xaviour Anderson, Jan. 1, 2010

* Spc. Lakeshia Mesha Bailey, March 8, 2010

* Sgt. 1st Class John Curtis Beale, June 4, 2009

* 1st Sgt. John David Blair, June 20, 2009

* Sgt. Brock Henry Chavers, July 6, 2009

* 1st Lt. Robert Wilson Collins, April 7, 2010

* Staff Sgt. Alex French IV, Sept. 30, 2009

* Maj. Kevin M. Jenrette, June 4, 2009

* Spc. Isaac Lee Johnson Jr., July 6, 2009

* Spc. Jeffrey William Jordan, June 4, 2009

* Pvt. Thomas Edward Lee III, May 29, 2009

* Pfc. Anthony Marquis Lightfoot, July 20, 2009

* Sgt. Vernon William Martin, Oct. 3, 2009

* Chief Warrant Officer Michael Patrick Montgomery, Oct. 26, 2009

* Sgt. Raymundo Porras Morales, July 21, 2009

* Pfc. Jaiciae London Pauley, Dec. 11, 2009

* Staff Sgt. Briand Thelonius Williams, Nov. 22, 2009

Sen. Don Balfour serves as Chairman of the Rules Committee. He represents the 9th Senate District, which includes a portion of Gwinnett County. Call him at 404.656.0095 or e-mail don.balfour@senate.ga.gov.