5801 Oxford Rd, Glen Echo, Md. 20812. If you ever find yourself in the Washington, D.C., area, that is the address of the Clara Barton National Historic Site, established in 1974 to interpret the life of a pioneering American teacher, nurse and humanitarian who founded the American Red Cross. 

It’s worth the trip to appreciate the contributions of Barton and many others who, like her, committed their lives to healing, learning, caring and pushing forward progress in our understanding and application of medicine.

Long before America observed what we now call Memorial Day, original and inventive practitioners such as Clara Barton and Dorothea Dix provided critical medical care to wounded soldiers on the battlefield and in makeshift hospitals. Their contributions helped shape modern nursing practices and emphasized the importance of compassionate care for the sick and injured.

In total, more than 1.3 million U.S. military personnel have given their lives in service to their country since 1775. And although their training and tools may have been rudimentary by today’s standards, caregivers — physicians and surgeons, nurses, medics, corpsmen and others — have stood with our armed forces from the beginning, risking and sometimes losing their own lives in the process.

The connection between hospitals, caregivers and Memorial Day underscores the enduring legacy of service and sacrifice in the health care profession. Like members of the military, health care workers have often put themselves in harm's way to care for others, especially during times of crisis and conflict.

Over the years, Memorial Day has expanded to honor not only fallen soldiers but also military medical personnel who have sacrificed their lives in service to their country. Instead of weapons, their hands held bandages, syringes, medicine and the tools of healing, but their ultimate sacrifice was no less.

Memorial Day serves as a poignant reminder of the shared commitment to serving others and honoring those who have given their lives in service to their country. Many hospitals make a point of commemorating Memorial Day by recognizing the contributions of these individuals and paying tribute to their dedication and bravery.

It’s more important than ever to remember and honor the courageous and heroic men and women of our armed forces who gave their lives in the service of our country and what it stands for.

Our respect and gratitude for their sacrifice is an appropriate way to ensure their loss is not forgotten and that their spirit and patriotism lives on in the hearts of their families, their communities and our nation.

We at the American Hospital Association, all of our members, and the individuals working in hospitals and health systems across America, salute our fallen. We work in health care to help save lives, but we understand firsthand the toll of loss, especially the loss of young lives given in service.

In these uncertain times, our men and women in uniform once again stand ready, as they always have, to defend our freedoms and help to safeguard our future.

For many, this weekend is a time for rest and relaxation. But please take a moment to also reflect on the devotion of the people that Memorial Day honors … and the value — and cost — of our freedom. 

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