Earlier this month, we asked you all to share some of your stories with us. To get the ball rolling Capt Millerchip shared her life changing experiences working with the Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operation Center in “Cherishing life, past heroes.” Dave Steele was one of many who answered our call…
By Dave Steele
Son of Col. Ralph J. Steele
Dear Captain Millerchip,
I read your blog posting regarding Memorial Day stories and wanted to share mine with you.
I’m not a veteran but Memorial Day and Veterans Day have a special meaning to me. My dad passed away on Memorial Day back in 2000. He was Col. Ralph J. Steele and served in the Army Air Corps and U.S. Air Force from 1942 until his retirement in 1972. He was assigned to the 21st Weather Squadron during WWII stationed in England and eventually France, served in Korea and in the 1960s became the first commander of the Air Force Global Weather Center (AFGWC) located at Offutt Air Force Base where he worked in the famous “Building D.” He served our country with honor and dignity throughout his career and was instrumental in helping develop computerized systems for weather data gathering during his time at Offutt. His decorations include a bronze star with oak leaf clusters and two Legion of Merit awards.
When he passed away he was buried at the Portland National Cemetery in Oregon with full military honors. I still get emotional when I hear Taps. One of the most poignant moments for me during the ceremony was when they handed the flag to my mother – I will never forget that. In effect, my mother served alongside my father, as do all military wives. They had been married for 58 years when he died. They were married in 1942 and three weeks after their wedding my father was on the Queen Mary bound for England not knowing when he would return. When my father retired my mother was also presented with a certificate of service for her steadfast years of supporting my father and his service to our country.
This Memorial Day was the first year that my mother could not visit my father’s grave to put flowers on it. The National Cemetery in Portland is on a beautiful rolling hillside. On Memorial Day, when the flags are all out and the color guards are there, it is a very emotional and inspiring sight. I am quite proud of my father’s service to our country and my mother’s support of him and our family during his service. I was 15 years old when my father retired and we settled in Corvallis, Ore. To this day, one of my biggest regrets is that I didn’t continue in his footsteps and also serve our country.
When I see or read stories of our brave men and women serving our country in these difficult times it always makes me think about my father. I know he would be extremely proud of all the service members and their sacrifices to ensure our freedom and the threats to freedom everywhere.
Thank you Captain Millerchip, for your service and for your efforts in honoring our past and present service members.
Photos: (Top) A picture taken of my father when he was in England during the war. (Bottom) A picture of me taken in the AFGWC cement bunker in Building D in 1968 during a family visit day.