Tag Archives: Memorial Day

Honor the fallen

By Air Force Social Media

While many Americans will enjoy a long holiday weekend for Memorial Day, do not forget the intent of the day. Remember those service members who lost their lives defending our nation’s freedom. See some of the courageous heroes who have recently paid the ultimate sacrifice.

Tech. Sgt. Anthony E. Salazar

Tech. Sgt. Anthony E. Salazar, age 40, died April 13, 2015, in a noncombat related incident at an air base in Southwest Asia while serving during Operation Inherent Resolve. Salazar, a native of Hermosa Beach, California, was assigned to U.S. Air Forces Central Command’s 577th Expeditionary Prime Base Engineer Emergency Force Squadron, 1st Expeditionary Civil Engineering Group.

Continue reading Honor the fallen

Importance of ‘Flag Day’

 

 Airmen preform a flag raisingBy Retired Chief Master Sgt. Scott Hubbartt
51st Fighter Wing

Each year, Americans can enjoy four special days set aside specifically to honor our veterans and comrades in arms. Sadly, too many of us often overlook these opportunities to pay our respect and recognize the sacrifice and service of these individuals. These four days are intended to, in some small way, express the sentiments of a grateful nation. So what does it say of us when we forget, overlook, or simply brush aside the opportunity to honor the best among us?

I understand that today our lives are more complicated and busier than ever. We have so much going on in our lives these days; school getting out, visiting relatives, graduations, and any number of other competing priorities. I hope each of us were able to honor all our heroes last November on Veteran’s Day. But what about the other days?

It’s perhaps easy to seek and find forgiveness for not making it out to a veteran’s cemetery last Memorial Day Monday. After all, who of us is not grateful for a day off or for a chance to sleep in, fire up the grill, catch a new summer blockbuster, and recharge our batteries?

Beginning during the Civil War, and originally called Decoration Day, this special day, now called Memorial Day, was set aside to recognize the nation’s war dead by decorating their graves. In nearly every community in America you can find, in small and large cemeteries, the final resting place of our veterans. Additionally there are over 120 national cemeteries as well as at least 80 state and territorial veteran’s cemeteries. Somewhere near each of us rests a veteran hero who answered the call and paid the ultimate price. So, I ask you, how difficult is it really to pack up the kids and drive out to the local cemetery and pay our respect? Perhaps you did just that last Monday, and if you did I thank you. If not, do so soon. Our fallen brethren won’t mind a bit if you visit their marker any day of the year.

And what about Armed Forces Day? Who even knows what that is all about anyway? In 1950, President Harry S. Truman spearheaded efforts to set aside a single holiday when Americans could gather and collectively thank our military personnel for their service to the nation. Okay. I’ll grant that there is a generous outpouring of support and gratitude from most Americans that range from hanging yellow ribbons to bumper stickers and welcome home parades for returning troops. I understand.

Then there is that fourth special day, June 14th, set aside to honor another veteran – a faithful comrade who has accompanied each of us – every service member before us, to battlefields and stations in virtually every corner of the globe. For more than two centuries this veteran has always been there with us – always faithful and this vet is always ready for a parade. Our friend was there out at the cemetery last Monday when we were too busy. Not to fret, he was present and accounted for standing tall on Armed Forces Day as well. In fact our friend is always there, and in fact, often overlooked and taken for granted.

Of course I am speaking of Old Glory, our flag. Always faithful and decked out in full glorious parade dress uniform! Our friend has guided and comforted countless numbers of our comrades in arms through the best and the worst of times. No doubt each of us can recall an example of our friend being present which might evoke strong emotions in each of us – perhaps in a parade, at a funeral for a loved one, on the battlefield, on the tail of a plane, or over an embassy in a foreign land. Our friend is always there and loves to be on parade! So, I ask you, on June 14, on Flag Day, hoist Old Glory up, salute, and give our good friend the respect and recognition he deserves.

Photo: U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Michael Royval, left, Master Sgt. Vince Muskiet and Master Sgt. Jeff Thornsberry raise the U.S. flag Feb. 27, 2012, at the 162nd Fighter Wing at Tucson International Airport, Ariz., while Master Sgt. James Mulcahey salutes. Even if the national anthem isn’t played, Airmen must stop and salute if they see this ceremony occurring on base and drivers must pull over and stop until it’s completed. (U.S. Air Force photo by Maj. Gabe Johnson)

Honoring our heroes

By Maj. Gen. Darren W. McDew
Air Force District of Washington Commander

In the National Capital Region, you do not have to look far to find monuments honoring our heroic Airmen, Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen who have paid the ultimate price in defense of our great Nation.

Maj. Gen. Darren W. McDew

This weekend, Americans will visit the memorials and cemeteries in Washington D.C. and throughout the U.S., as well as in Europe and the Pacific, to honor the hundreds of thousand fallen service members who have given their lives for our country and our freedom.

Many will remember grandparents, parents, brothers, sisters, aunts and uncles who served in World War I and World War II, Korea, Vietnam and the first Gulf War. Many more will pay tribute to husbands, wives, sons and daughters who recently lost their lives in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Think about that … memorials and military cemeteries spread across this nation and throughout the world. The VA’s National Cemetery Administration maintains approximately 3.1 million gravesites at 131 national cemeteries in 39 states and U.S. territories, as well as in 33 “soldiers’ lots” and monument sites. The American Battle Monuments Commission manages 24 overseas military cemeteries, and 25 memorials, monuments and markers to honor those who served in World War I or World War II. The overseas locations memorialize more than 218,000 Americans with nearly 125,000 gravesites, and commemorate an additional 94,000 on “Tablets of the Missing.”

In Arlington National Cemetery, 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment Soldiers (The Old Guard), U.S. Marine Corps Ceremonial and Guard Company Marines, U.S. Navy Ceremonial Guardsmen, U.S. Air Force Honor Guard members and U.S. Coast Guard Ceremonial Honor Guard members will place more than 250,000 grave decorating flags. The flags will remain through Memorial Day.

The numbers are staggering, but they do not account for thousands more buried in state veterans’ cemeteries throughout the country.

The numbers also tell a story. These heroes hailed from every town and city in America. They came from every walk of life – young men and women straight out of high school and college to farmers, policemen, teachers, doctors, lawyers – you name it. Their ethnic backgrounds are equally as diverse. But they all had one thing in common – they served our nation during times of peace and war. They served as shields for America to keep war from reaching our front door. Unfortunately, too many lost their lives in foreign lands never to see their families again.

Today, we are faced with the grim reality that the number of fatalities since we began operations in Afghanistan and Iraq is up to more than 6,400. Every one of those losses is a loss to our nation, a loss to our military, and, most importantly, a loss to the families who grieve.

On this Memorial Day, at 3 p.m., wherever you are, I encourage you to pause and participate in the National Moment of Remembrance established by Congress. This is a moment of reflection and an opportunity to demonstrate our gratitude for our fallen warriors.

On Memorial Day and every day, let’s continue to make sure our heroes are never forgotten.

I thank you for your service and wish you a safe holiday weekend.

Remembering Arlington Airmen

In memory of my father

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

Mr. Steele's father in group photo

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.

 Young Dave SteeleWhen 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.

Cherishing life, past heroes

By Capt Amber Millerchip
Air Force Public Affairs Agency

I’m Capt Amber Millerchip, Chief of Emerging Technology for the Air Force Public Affairs Agency, and I’d like to share with you how one of my deployments changed me. Last week, we (AF Social Media) asked you on Facebook to share with us what you planned to do to honor fallen service members on Memorial Day. We read such amazing stories, and we were inspired to try something new. In order to highlight some of your stories, we want you to be guest bloggers and send us posts for the USAF blog (instructions are below). I hope that my blog post will inspire you to write your own post.
Capt Amber Millerchip

As a third generation Air Force officer, Memorial Day weekend is more than time off from work, picnics and fun in the sun; it’s a special time. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all about enjoying the break and spending time with family, but what’s more important is taking the time to reflect, honor and remember those veterans who’ve served and those who’ve died for our great nation.

Last summer, I deployed to the Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operation Center, Dover Air Force Base, Del., where all of our fallen service members arrive home from combat. During the dignified transfers, I shared in the ultimate loss of parents, spouses and children. Some were silent welcoming their loved one home and others cried out their despair, their heartbreak so evident I barely could maintain my military bearing and at times just couldn’t stop my tears from falling.

I come from a very big military family and thank goodness we’ve never lost anyone to combat, but I did lose a best friend. She died in a joint exercise in Egypt. In her short life, she was a such as bright star. Her amazing spirit shone through her eyes and affected everyone she met. When I was at Dover, I couldn’t help but think of her, and although I didn’t get to help her on her final journey, at least I was able to help those that I could. 

My deployment was one of the most intense and honorable experiences of my life, and I felt blessed for the opportunity to help my fallen comrades on their final journey home. Looking back, I realize they helped me more than I helped them. Their sacrifices and their family’s sacrifices deeply touched me. I am a better person and Airman after these experiences. I realized with every fallen service member I encountered, it could be me, or one of my brothers, troops or friends serving. The experience renewed my pride in my service and gave me such an appreciation for my life. I will NEVER be the same again.
Grandfather
I decided to start a Memorial Day tradition every year. I’m going to do something remarkable. Something that reminds me that life is precious, beautiful, and that I should live life to the fullest– now! This past weekend I decided to do sky diving to honor my fallen comrades, including my friend and my grandfather, a former WWII hero who didn’t die in combat, but flying later on in his life. Not sure what next year will be, but I can promise you it will be a grand adventure, and I’ll be thinking about these special people all the way.

We want to know how the USAF has taught you a lesson or inspired you. Send us your own stories for our consideration at afbluetube@gmail.com. We need from you at least 300 words, a headline, a byline, and a photo with a caption. We’ll fix typos and grammatical errors, but we won’t change your writing style. Remember to keep entries family friendly and relevant. Profanity or solicitation will not be read. We will pick the best and share them with our social media followers.

PHOTOS: (Top) This is me in action at Dover Air Force Base, Del. I was waiting for the vehicle transporting the family to the flight line for a dignified transfer. (U.S. Air Force photo by Roland Balik). (Bottom) An up-close photo of my grandfather and a crew member in front of his A-20 Havoc.