updated 05/26/2014 AT 12:00 PM ET
•originally published 05/26/2014 AT 1:30 PM ET
To many Americans, Memorial Day means barbecues and the start of the summer season. But it’s first and foremost a time to remember the men and women who have served our country, giving thanks to those who risk their lives everyday to protect ours.
PEOPLE is paying tribute to the Heroes Among Us who have touched readers’ hearts over the years, the U.S. soldiers and veterans who went beyond the call of duty to make the world a better place for us all.
In honor of their sacrifice, see five stunning photos showing how people around the world are commemorating our troops.
In the first photo (above), President Barack Obama spoke to troops during a surprise visit to the largest U.S. military base in Afghanistan, Bagram Air Field, on Sunday.