Adm. Harris and Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell lay a wreath during the ceremony. (U.S. Navy/MC1 David Kolmel)

HONOLULU - Adm. Harry B. Harris, commander of U.S. Pacific Fleet, honored America’s fallen service members at the 65th Mayor’s Memorial Day Ceremony at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl, May 26.

“Memorial Day is a day on, not a day off,” Harris said. “This is a holiday in which we remember all servicemen and women who gave their lives so that we might live in freedom. This is a special and sacred day. This is why we are gathered here to memorialize the fallen, because the spirit of freedom will never let us forget.”

Harris noted that this country has always had people willing to stand in defense of America.

“Thankfully, our nation has always been blessed to have strong men and women with exceptional courage, who are willing and able to stand and defend America whenever our liberty is in jeopardy,” Harris said. “America is the country she is because of young men and women, who are willing to forego wearing a business suit, forego strolling down “Easy Street”, forego living the good life but to wear instead the cloth of the nation, to travel instead along an uncertain road fraught with danger to live lives that matter on a fundamental level.”

Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell, the keynote speaker, also spoke about the great effort and sacrifices the units from Hawaii.

“I came up a little late today because I was saying thank you to all those who served in World War II including some of our veterans in the 442nd, those who serve in the intelligence in the Pacific, those who had Purple Hearts starting with WWII, Korean War, Vietnam War and going forward,” Caldwell said. “They are here to honor those who did not come home, who did sacrifice their lives for the rest of us.”

Caldwell also honored the late Senator Daniel Inouye, a Medal of Honor recipient who served in the U.S. Senate from 1962 until his death in 2012.

“He would say I’m grateful that I survived when many of his peers never came home,” Caldwell said. “He worked hard in the memory of those who did not come back home with him, and that is the spirit of Memorial Day.”

More than 40 military organizations presented wreaths at the memorial to honor the nation’s war dead.

Memorial Day, previously know as Decoration Day, became a national holiday in 1971, and is celebrated the last Monday in May. Memorial Day honors those that have lost their lives serving in the military. In 1987 and each subsequent year until his death, Senator Inouye introduced a resolution to return the holiday to its original date of May 30th.