“You can feel her grief through the photograph”

Her arm outstretched, tears streaming down her cheeks onto the fabric, Tara Thomas greeted her husband’s flag-draped coffin at the Raleigh-Durham International Airport.

In one moment, Tara and her children’s lives forever changed. Green Beret Shawn Thomas was coming home, but not the way they hoped.

You can feel her grief through the photograph. A plane full of people, and the world through social media, saw up close the true cost of freedom.

For the families who have to say goodbye, the cost is greater than we can ever repay.

We owe it to their loved one’s memory to ensure that their deaths are more than just a number — a cold, unfeeling number of casualties in a far off place. Each number was a person. Each was a son or daughter, mom or dad, brother or sister, not unlike you and me, who had hopes and dreams.

These promising lives cut short are why Brian and I bring our children to Arlington Cemetery.

When we walk through the headstones, holding their little hands, we tell them about the Taras and Shawns, the Nicholas Sprovtsoffs, and families like the Craigs and Fazzaris of Eastern Washington, who sacrificed everything for us. And we remind them how blessed they are to live in a country like ours.

I am thankful for the men and women in our conference who stepped up to serve their country. In addition to their service, they offer us perspective. They remind us that our freedoms aren’t free — they’ve been won, they’ve been fought for, and they’ve been defended. Today and every day, we honor those who laid down their lives for a nation of friends.

Rep. Brian Babin (R-TX) 

“As a veteran, Memorial Day is one of the most important days of the year.

Rep. Mark Sanford (R-SC) 

“[Memorial Day] is the one time of the year where we pause and remember folks that have sacrificed their lives so that we might enjoy the freedoms that we do as Americans.”

Rep. Jeff Denham (R-CA)

“This is a day of remembrance, and of honoring those that have paid the ultimate sacrifice, but for the last several years, far too often we’re spending our time talking about the inadequacies of the VA.”

Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX)

“As I casted votes this week to help the veterans administration and our veterans, I was reminded of those many, many Americans in years past that have given their lives for the rest of us.”

Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R-GA)

“These that we honor Memorial Day — they gave their future, they gave their dreams, so that we can live in a land of freedom here today.”

Rep. Larry Bucshon, M.D. (R-IN)

“As a veteran, it means a lot to me because men and women who have sacrificed their lives for their country, and freedom doesn’t come free.”

Rep. Martha McSally (R-AZ)

“Honored to lead the pledge of allegiance & sing at Sierra Vista’s Memorial Day at S. AZ’s Veterans Memorial Cemetery. God bless America!

Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway (R-TX)

“Memorial Day is a day to honor the many men and women who gave the greatest sacrifice they could for our nation. Last week, Congressman Brian Mast spoke on the House floor about what Memorial Day means to him- and it’s worth taking a few moments today to listen in and reflect on the incredible significance of the day. Brian, it is an honor to serve with you in Congress.”

Rep. Brian Mast (R-FL)

“As we approach Memorial Day, I always remember well a lot of things about those friends. I remember their smile. I remember the jokes that we would play on each other. …I can remember where they were from, I can remember the time that we spent training together, shooting together, jumping out of aircraft together… I can remember their hobbies. I can remember their plans for what they wanted to do whenever they returned home. I can remember the pictures that they themselves would carry in their breast pocket of the ones that they loved most just like the one I would carry of my wife Brianna and our one son we had at the time. I can remember their loyalty and their determination and their grit and for some of them I can remember their last breaths. I can remember saluting their casket with the most beautiful flag that I have ever seen draped gracefully across it.”

Rep. Brett Guthrie (R-KY)

“There was no better way to start Memorial Day weekend than visiting with World War II veteran Chauncey Monroe on Friday. He served on a LST landing craft that crossed the English Channel over 30 times carrying tanks, vehicles and troops directly to the beaches of France. Thank you for your service, Chauncey. You are the greatest generation.”

Rep. Steve Russell (R-OK)

“We appreciate people saying ‘thank you for your service,’ but this day is not really about us that have served. It’s about those that didn’t have the privilege to come home from our wars like we did. So it’s up to us to remember them. I wear a bracelet of soldiers that I’ve served with — it has their names on it — as a daily reminder of those that we lost.”

Rep. Chris Stewart (R-UT)

“[During World War II] they had to keep the faith. They had to keep fighting, even in the face of such opposition and such long odds. I think that’s a lesson worth remembering when we have challenges as well, when we think ‘this is too hard, I don’t think we can win in this,’ remember those great examples and how other people felt the same way and yet they did win.”

Rep. Steve Stivers (R-OH)

“As we begin Memorial Day Weekend, we take time to reflect on those soldiers who have laid down their lives to protect our nation and our values. In the 15th District and across the country, people will remember their neighbors, friends, and loved ones who did not come home. [This week], I had the honor to pay tribute to those brave men and women by placing a wreath with my colleague and fellow Army veteran, Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard. This Memorial Day, take a moment to thank the veterans in your lives, and a moment to reflect those who have made the ultimate sacrifice.”

Rep. Ralph Abraham (R-LA)

“Enjoyed making the Memorial Day march in Vidalia with 91-year-old Frank Williams, the commander of the American Legion Sidney Short Post 590 in Vidalia. …Today a lot of us will get the chance to be with the ones we love – our families, our friends. We’re only able to do that because of the sacrifices made by the men and women who serve in our military who left their loved ones behind for us. Let us remember those who paid the ultimate price for our freedom and never forget what they’ve done for us.”

Rep. Mike Bost (R-IL)

“Americans owe a debt of gratitude to our nation’s bravest individuals – those who have served their country and risked their lives in defense of freedom and liberty. We must always remember the sacrifices of our veterans and their families, and I remain committed to providing the best care possible for them.”

Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK)

“I had the honor of speaking today at the Avenue of Flags Memorial Day Weekend Observance at Floral Haven in remembrance of so many brave soldiers that paid the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom. At this year’s event, I was able to formally recognize Sgt. Ronnie Haney, a Vietnam veteran that was wounded in combat, who only recently received his full compliment of medals.”

Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA)

“It was a privilege to join my fellow Representatives and service members in the Capitol [this week] to lay wreaths honoring our fallen military heroes, whose sacrifice compels us to defend in life what they championed in death. America is not a nation that asks people to fight and die for ivory towers. We are and must be a nation that prioritizes human life and dignity. When the idea of unalienable rights seems abstract, we recognize that the cost of freedom is always concrete. We measure that cost in lost fathers and mothers and brothers and sisters and remember them especially on this Memorial Day.”

Rep. Rick Crawford (R-AR)

“Before I left Washington D.C. this past week to return home to Jonesboro, I visited the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. As many of you know, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial is a wall that lists the names of all the brave men and women who perished in that conflict. Because my dad is a Vietnam veteran and I am a former EOD tech myself, this memorial in particular speaks to me. Vietnam was a difficult time in our history, and I certainly want to recognize the service and sacrifice of those who gave everything during that conflict.”

Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-FL)

“Earlier this week, I was honored to participate in a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery. These heroes, known but to God, deserve the appreciation of the American people for their gallantry in battle and for making the ultimate sacrifice on behalf of freedom. On this Memorial Day, let us remember and give thanks to those who gave their lives in service of our nation. They are the indispensable Americans without whom we would not be free.”

Rep. Neal Dunn (R-FL)

“On this Memorial Day I ask you to find a way to give of yourself to remember those who gave their lives so that others might live. That way they can never be forgotten.”

Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-WI)

“My favorite [monument] is the World War II Memorial, which serves as an enduring reminder to all who pass by of how lucky we are to have been born in this country. I hope on Memorial Day, we’ll take a moment to reflect on that and how this gift of freedom is one that we have to pass on to the next generation.”

Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX)

“This World War II Memorial brings to mind so many who paid the ultimate sacrifice so we owe it to them to make sure that we keep the gift that they give going.”

Rep. Bill Johnson (R-OH)

“Today is a solemn remembrance of the brave men and women in uniform who gave their lives defending America and ensuring our liberty. These are ordinary citizens that took on extraordinary responsibilities. From Bunker Hill to Normandy to Afghanistan – and the many, many places in between – our men and women in uniform go to places they’ve never been before, often fighting for people they have never met, and they do it for the cause of freedom. Today is a day to remember that, in fact, freedom is not free, to reflect on those who made the ultimate sacrifice, and to recognize those who continue to serve in harms way across the globe.”

Rep. Sam Johnson (R-TX)

“On Memorial Day, Americans across the country come together to remember our servicemen and women who paid the ultimate sacrifice in defense of Freedom. As an Air Force veteran who spent nearly seven years as a POW in Vietnam’s Hoa Lo Prison, I pay special tribute to my fellow comrades who didn’t make it home. We honor all our fallen service members’ memories and we support their families for their sacrifices. We also thank our veterans who are with us today. They are all heroes. God bless you, and God bless America. I salute you.”

Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL)

“This Memorial Day, we take time as a country to celebrate and remember those who have given their lives to protect the freedoms we hold so dear. As a veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, I saw firsthand what this kind of sacrifice meant and I’m grateful to know so many who continue to honorably serve our nation in uniform and in the name of United States of America.”

Rep. Stephen Knight (R-CA)

“Today we commemorate those who gave the ultimate sacrifice while serving in our nation’s armed forces. While we have unfortunately lost many, their humble fight for freedom has not been forgotten. Today is also for the families and friends of those remembered who have suffered a great loss of a loved one. Please keep our fallen heroes in your thoughts this Memorial Day.”

Rep. Roger Marshall (R-KS)

“On this Memorial Day, Laina and I say a prayer of gratitude for the many individuals who have laid down their lives for our country, and the many families who have lost loved ones. Today and every day, we must remember the cost of freedom, and thank those who continue to serve.”

Rep. Steve Pearce (R-NM)

“That’s what Memorial Day is all about — that remembering of those who died in conflict…let us on this Memorial Day set apart time that we would remember the names on the wall. We would remember those that were just our average kids, working on the block, playing with us on the sports teams, maybe they just went to school. But let’s remember those lives that were cut short in the line of duty. “

Rep. Scott Taylor (R-VA)

“I am not naïve to the fact that my words today don’t hold a candle to the witness or the words we can no longer hear of the valiant men and women who sacrificed it all for this nation. However, we must honor them. Not simply for them, but for us, for the very fabric of our land, and for our descendants for generations to come. There is nothing small about the big task it is to defend freedom, peace, and our way of life. We remember.”

Rep. Brad Wenstrup (R-OH)

As one American POW etched into the walls of a cell in Vietnam: “Freedom has a taste to those who fight and almost die that the protected will never know.” As we go about our weekend, let us recognize and treasure every ounce of that freedom we enjoy – not in spite of, but because of the heavy truths that we memorialize this weekend: Freedom comes at a high price. Remember those who paid your bill, with their life. The United States truly is “the land of the free and the home of the brave.”

Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY)

“…It is because of their selfless acts that we are able to call ourselves Americans, a distinction which not only expresses what country we are a part of or our sacred bond of national unity, but who we are as a nation that makes us the greatest country in the world. Our nation is nothing without the courageous sacrifices of our military members, and every single one of us should be eager to give our respects to all who came before us and paid the ultimate price, as well as all those who are still serving today. God Bless America and our service members!”

Veterans Affairs Committee Chair Phil Roe, M.D. (R-TN)

Each Memorial Day, we pause to pay tribute to the brave men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice to protect the freedoms we hold dear. We owe them a debt we can never fully repay, which is exactly why we must strive to honor their service any way we can. One way to do that is to take care of the loved ones they leave behind.

I’m proud that, just last week, the House of Representatives passed legislation to provide disabled veterans with a cost-of-living adjustment so that disabled veterans and surviving beneficiaries receive the benefits they deserve. Providing veterans experiencing disabilities as a result of their service and the family members of our fallen heroes with this important increase in benefits is a testament to our nation’s commitment to the men and women who serve.

Click here to read his full Medium.com post

Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA)

“On Memorial Day, we pause to remember those who have laid down their lives for our great Nation. We honor their legacies, not just their sacrifice, and wish our heartfelt gratitude to their families and all those impacted by their passing. Let us never forget that freedom is bought with the highest price.”

Rep. Dave Reichert (R-WA)

“Today, parade-goers will gather across the country to honor, remember, and pay respect to the countless American heroes who sacrificed their lives so we can live free. When we attend a Memorial Day parade or visit the seemingly endless graves at Arlington National Cemetery, we ask ourselves, what compels an individual to leave the safety of home and risk everything to protect millions of Americans who they will never meet and never know? Our current and former members of the military have a special something inside of them – a call to serve.

Thank you to those who have and those who will answer this call to put country before themselves.”

Rep. Jack Bergman (R-MI)

“Make no mistake—no one is more invested in peace than our men and women in uniform, because no one takes the risks, makes the sacrifices, and bears the cost of battle like they do. Those rows of white headstones across the bridge in Arlington serve as a reminder of that. We owe them more than gratitude—we owe them every effort at peace.

Read His Full Blog Here

Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC)

“Today, we remember and honor those who have served this nation to protect and defend the freedoms we cherish. This Memorial Day, let us take the time to show our appreciation for the service and sacrifice of America’s heroes.”

Rep. Thomas Garrett (R-VA)

“As someone who served in the Armed Forces as an Army Artillery officer, Memorial Day carries special meaning to me as a constant reminder of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice. Their sacrifices, in keeping our country safe, is something that we should never forget. The greatest honor I ever had personally was at the age of 25 when I commanded 55 soldiers on foreign soil while taking every measure possible to ensure that they would return home safely.”