May We Never Forget Freedom Isn’t Free — Memorial Day Tribute 2023

This year marks the 50th Anniversary of the official end to the Vietnam War, when the last U.S. combat troops left South Vietnam on March 29, 1973.

3.4 million U.S. service members were deployed to Southeast Asia during the war.

More than 300,000 were wounded.

766 were taken prisoner — 114 died in captivity, 37 escaped captivity, and 684 returned alive, including 591 who were freed in 1973 as a result of the Paris Peace Accords.

2,646 went missing in action with 1,584 still unaccounted for.

58,279 made the ultimate sacrifice.

As our nation commemorates Memorial Day this year, we take a moment to pay special tribute to all those who made that sacrifice during our nation’s longest and costliest conflict of the Cold War. And we honor all of the nearly 1 million service members who have fallen throughout our nation’s history, reflecting on the high cost of those cherished American freedoms that so many take for granted.

President Ronald Reagan delivered the following oft-quoted remarks during a Memorial Day ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery, Virginia, on May 31, 1982.

“The sight before us is that of a strong and good nation that stands in silence and remembers those who were loved and who, in return, loved their countrymen enough to die for them. Yet we must try to honor them — not for their sake alone, but for our own. And if words cannot repay the debt we owe these men, surely with our actions, we must strive to keep faith with them and with a vision that led them to battle and to final sacrifice.

“Our first obligation to them and ourselves is plain enough: the United States and the freedom for which it stands, the freedom for which they died, must endure and prosper. Their lives remind us that freedom is not bought cheaply. It has a cost. The willingness of some to give their lives so that others might live never fails to evoke in us a sense of wonder and mystery. And how they must have wished — in all the ugliness that war brings — that no other generation of young men to follow would have to undergo that same experience.

“As we honor their memory today, let us pledge that their lives, their sacrifices, their valor shall be justified and remembered for as long as God gives life to this nation. And let us also pledge to do our utmost to carry out what must have been their wish — that no other generation of young men will ever have to share their experiences and repeat their sacrifice.”



  • Producer/Director/Editor: Brad Neese
  • Historical information sourced from U.S. Department of Defense, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, and U.S. National Archives and Records Administration.
  • U.S. Army video by Les Owen; full honor funeral for U.S. Army Sergeant First Class Mihail Golin, in Section 60 of Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia on January 22, 2018; Sgt. Golin died January 1, 2018 as a result of wounds sustained while engaged in combat operations in Nangarhar Province, Afghanistan, with the 2nd Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group, in support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel.
  • U.S. Army video of Myeshia Johnson at the Miami International Airport receiving the remains of her fallen soldier husband, Sergeant La David T. Johnson from the 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne), one of four soldiers killed on October 4, 2017, during a joint U.S. and Nigerien patrol in southwest Niger.
  • President Reagan’s Remarks at Memorial Day Ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery, Virginia, May 31, 1982, courtesy of Ronald Reagan Presidential Library.
  • Vietnam Veterans Memorial video footage and images, courtesy of U.S. National Park Service and U.S. Department of Defense
  • Additional video footage and images, courtesy of U.S. Department of Defense
  • Stock video footage and images licensed via Getty Images.
  • Soundtrack: “Marines Return” by Simon Stevens, licensed via Premium Beat