Tag Archives: Veterans Day

Week in Photos, Nov. 16, 2012

By Staff Sgt. Amanda Dick
Air Force Public Affairs Agency

From remembering the fallen to honoring the deployed, this Week in Photos is nothing if not dignified.

PHOTO: Tech. Sgt. Sara Bauer and Staff Sgt. Felipe Mendoza help each other place flags above the graves of deceased U.S. military members at the Veterans Memorial Park, Bluffdale, Utah, Nov. 9, 2012. A group of volunteers from Hill Air Force Base helped the Memorial Park’s staff place flags by over 4,300 deceased U.S. military members’ graves. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Tiffany DeNault)

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)

Veterans Day: reflecting on service, Air Force Memorial

By Tech. Sgt. Karen J. Tomasik
Air Force Public Affairs Agency

Veterans Day is near and dear to my family since many family members have served this nation across several service branches. I’ve attended many ceremonies and services at various locations over the years, but there is a place I have yet to visit on a military holiday – the Air Force Memorial.

Why would I want to spend Veterans Day visiting the Air Force Memorial specifically? It’s because my daughters are finally old enough to notice the details of the memorial and what they mean. It’s a visual representation of me and my husband’s Air Force service, and I’d really like to see the wonder in their eyes at seeing the memorial for the first time.

What I remember most about the first time I ever saw the memorial, was the way the three soaring, shiny stainless steel spires seem to rise up out of the trees when driving up to the memorial site. It was their graceful curvature that took me back to my childhood when I saw the Thunderbirds perform what’s known as the bomb burst maneuver.

I also remember a lot of the news that came out about the design and building of the memorial – some people liked the design while others were very vocal in saying how much they didn’t like it. What mattered to me was my service branch finally having a memorial for our Airmen that captures our mission – much like the Navy’s Lone Sailor Statue signifies the service of Sailors and the Marine Corps War Memorial embodies the courage and sacrifice of Marines.

The memorial is not just for the men and women serving in today’s Air Force but also those who served in early organizations like the Aeronautical Division and Aviation Section of the U.S. Signal Corps; the Army Air Service; the U.S. Army Air Corps; and the U.S. Army Air Forces among others. This is for all of America’s Airmen.

The memorial also features a bronze honor guard statue, which I also identify with – not as a ceremonial guardsman in the U.S. Air Force Honor Guard – but as a young Airman allowed to participate as a member of the base honor guard at McChord Air Force Base, Wash.

The opportunities I had to render final honors for many who served in the Army Air Corps and some who served much more recently really opened my eyes to how much we owe to people who choose to join the ranks of those going off into the wild blue yonder for their country.

As a kid growing up in rural Ohio, I loved watching the crop dusters flying over local farms and enjoyed each chance I got to fly to Texas to visit my grandparents for summer vacations. I’m sure all that, my dad’s service in the Ohio Air National Guard, and my being born in San Antonio, home of the Gateway to the Air Force, played a part in my decision to join.

The Air Force memorial is more than just steel spires, bronze statues, granite walls or the glass contemplation wall honoring fallen Airmen. It shows the American people the spirit of its Airmen through the decades, represents our core values and recognizes the three components that make up our Total Force.

It is a legacy of American Airmen and airpower that I hope future generations, including that of my daughters, can look upon with awe as they remember the great feats we have accomplished and the leaders we have developed.

Photo: The Air Force Memorial in Arlington, Va., is the site of a dedication ceremony Oct. 14, 2006, at 9 a.m. Organizers braved the cooler afternoon temperatures Oct. 12 making final preperations for the dedication ceremony. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Larry A. Simmons)

Our veterans, my heroes

By Col. George Farfour
90th Missile Wing vice commander

As we approach Nov. 11, Veterans Day, I am reminded more readily that those of us wearing the uniform have a special bond with those who have worn the uniform — our veterans. We share an identity that transcends any differences we may have. We unite in a duty to serve and sacrifice for our great nation, to ensure liberty and freedom continues to have a solid foundation in America as the beacon of hope for the world. I submit for your consideration the story below which occurred earlier in my career. Remembering this story helps frame for me, on a personal level, our obligation to our veterans. I hope it does for you as well.

After an uneventful visit to the base barber shop, I thought I would kill some time in what had promised to be an uneventful day. I decided to visit the clothing sales store — not to buy anything, but just to browse around.

Upon entering, I circled around toward the book section to see what was new. As I picked up a copy of some book, I noticed out of the corner of my eye an older gentleman, perhaps 70, struggling to pick out some merchandise. I paid closer attention and saw he was having trouble reading the tags.

Not wanting to appear patronizing, I just watched a while, not offering any assistance. As time progressed and he made no headway in his search, I felt something inside tell me to help. Maybe it was the small Purple Heart pin on his hat that motivated me, I really don’t know. Slowly, I moved toward him and asked if I could help him find something.

I was relieved when he turned and pleasantly said, “Yes, I can’t seem to find the American Defense Service Medal ribbon.” Immediately, I noticed a sheet of paper organized in lists in one hand and ribbons in the other. He was obviously reconstructing his old ribbons and medals for display or wear.

We worked through the list together, talking as we went. He told me how he was finally going to get all of his medals together and put them in a shadow box on the wall for his grandchildren. He had recently received word that he was awarded several medals and decorations from World War II that were forgotten as he was a medic assigned to another unit. The list outlined awards and decorations from World War II and Korea.

As we double checked the list, he explained what each attachment meant. “This arrowhead means an amphibious assault landing — went in on the first wave at Normandy. This Combat Infantryman’s Badge means I was in continuous combat with the enemy for 30 days in a row. We got this one and the Combat Medic’s Badge. This is a new one, the Prisoner of War Medal. Didn’t have that one when I was a POW. This one here, we all got for going to defend South Korea in 1950.”

He didn’t brag, he just stated matter-of-factly what they all meant.

In the course of our conversation, he learned I was an Air Force officer. From then on, he addressed me as “Sir.”

He acted glad that I’d helped, and was even more appreciative when I asked the clerk to run a copy of the “order of precedence” ribbon chart for him to take home. As he walked to the counter to pay for his ribbons and badges, I told him I was honored to help him. He replied, “Thank you, sir.” I thought it was odd for a man of 70 to be calling me sir, but I guess that’s just the type of man he is.

As I walked toward my car, my thoughts turned to the hundreds of injured soldiers he must have helped, the faces he must have looked into and reassured as bombs fell around them and bullets whizzed by, the helplessness he must have felt as he watched someone’s son, husband, father and brother die in his arms. The great exhilarations of battle, the fear of death he faced each day, all swirled in my head. Each time his country called, he was there, ready to do what had to be done. I owe him — we all owe him, and all those like him — for what we have today. This world is not perfect, but it is closer due to their sacrifice.

From the beaches of Normandy to the hills of Korea, he served his country with pride and, from the number of awards, with great distinction. There are many veterans out there with a similar story. Whether it is the jungles of New Guinea, the deserts of Africa, Kuwait or Iraq that their stories highlight, the frigid cold of a Korea or an Afghanistan winter or the rainy season in the Mekong Delta, they all have done this country a great service. When we think of war, we tend to think most often of the dead, but Veterans Day is a day to also remember all those who served their country. Gen. George S. Patton said it best in a post-World War II speech: “Everyone always talks about the heroic dead, well damn it, there’s a lot of heroic alive ones out there, too!”

We see those “heroic alive ones” every day. Perhaps it’s a Veterans of Foreign Wars cap, a sticker on a car, a pin on a suit, a Purple Heart license plate, an American Legion shirt, or maybe it’s your dad, grandpa, brother, sister, uncle or just a close friend. If you see one of these “heroic alive ones,” go over and shake their hand just to say, “Thank you.” It’s a small gesture, but a meaningful one. Their greatest pleasure, or payoff so to speak, is the freedom we still have, due in large part to their sacrifice and example.

I met a hero. And though I haven’t been asked to do what he did, I’m ready, when my country needs me. Meeting him, seeing his example and accomplishments, strengthened my resolve and boosted my pride. Some people say there are no heroes left, our kids can’t look up to anyone. Well, I say they’re blind. Heroes are everywhere … you just have to look.

I met one in clothing sales.

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.