FILE – In this Friday, July 31, 2015, file photo, graffiti covers the Confederate Memorial in Pensacola, Fla. Police are investigating after a man’s body was found at the moment on Sunday Aug. 9, 2015. (Kevin Robinson/Pensacola News Journal via AP)

The country’s largest battlefield preservation organization is asking its 55,000 members to help protect war memorials and monuments by signing a petition urging congressional leaders to safeguard them and not allow them to be “discarded in the passion of the moment.” In its September newsletter, the Civil War Trust wrote in support of Union and Confederate memorials, saying they are each a part of American history, representing fallen comrades and friends.

The petition said, in part, “It is our privilege as a free people to debate our history. However, we must remember that such freedoms come at a tremendous cost, paid for in blood of brave Americans in uniform who sacrificed all to forge the country we are today. We owe these men and women a debt that can never be paid.”

[Mixed response to campaign to remove Confederate battle flag]

The petition comes at a time of renewed debate over the display of the Confederate flag and memorials. Notably, South Carolina lawmakers voted to remove the Confederate battle flag from the statehouse grounds following the massacre of nine African Americans at a Charleston church. There have been incidents of Confederate memorials being vandalized around the U.S., and a number of local governments are considering whether to remove memorials or rename schools and streets that honor Confederate leaders.

Recently, the University of Texas at Austin followed through on an announced plan to remove a statue of Confederate President Jefferson Davis from the campus. After repairs, it will be housed indoors in a university-owned museum.

[University of Texas bumps Confederate statue to indoor exhibit]

The Civil War Trust petition says generations of Americans continue to build memorials, even now, that honor those who served in the military and fallen in wars stretching from the Revolutionary War through to Afghanistan and Iraq.

“It is important to remember that many of these memorials are historic in their own right some 200 years old. In countless instances, these monuments were erected by the veterans themselves, who wanted to remember their leaders, their units and their fallen comrades. Many of these memorials were also paid for not with public money but through small dollar donations made by survivors and local citizens, determined to give od their limited means to honor the military.”

The petition concludes, in part, “Future generations will never forgive us for failing to protect these monuments. Please support this request to preserve and protect American’s silent sentinels—our war memorials and monuments.”