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Patriotic Article
Heroes and Patriots

By USAF AFC Daniel Phelps

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Shaw Airmen Honor Fallen Veterans
(December 18, 2010)

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COLUMBIA, S.C. – “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction,” said Ronald Reagan. “We didn't pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children's children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.”

It was an unusually cold Dec. 11 morning for South Carolina, yet Airmen and civilians from Team Shaw showed up despite the chill to pay their respects and honor their departed forbearers of the U.S. Armed Forces at Fort Jackson National Cemetery.

They joined hundreds of past and present servicemembers, cadets from junior Reserve Officer Training Corps and Civil Air Patrol and civilians for the Wreaths Across America ceremony that morning.

“When I found out about this event, I responded immediately,” said Diana Archie, 20th Medical Support Squadron medical records technician, herself a veteran. “This was a great way for me to show my appreciation. I wanted to do what I could.”

The ceremony was to remember veterans who have passed, to honor those who are serving and have served and to teach our children what it means to serve our country, said Carol Davis, Wreaths Across America, Fort Jackson National Cemetery director.

Wreaths Across America developed as an extension from the Arlington Wreath Project that began in 1992 with the laying of 5,000 donated Christmas wreaths at Arlington National Cemetery. The second Saturday of December is now wreath-laying day.

The ceremony included a memorial presentation, World War II wreath laying, recognition of prisoners of war, those still missing in action and Merchant Marines, a three-volley salute by a battery of seven cannons and a bugler who played “Taps.”

“Seeing all the services there and all the generations and uniforms that were out of date, you realize that we are all one fighting for freedom,” said Staff Sgt. Amanda Payne, 20th Fighter Wing command chief's assistant.

Archie described an older lady who came out in her old, outdated uniform, “When her feet touched the concrete, everybody stopped what they were doing and saluted her.”

Archie said others there had an impact on her as well.

One veteran told Archie how much it meant for him to see everyone who came out and showed their love and appreciation. He then asked her if she was a veteran. Archie explained to him that she was, prior Air Force, and thanked him for his service. The man then responded to her by telling her she had given the same.

Organizers passed out wreaths to lay on the tombstones of veterans.

“While laying the wreaths on the tombstones, I realized that this could happen to me,” said Senior Airman Rebecca Long, 20th Medical Operations Squadron medical technician. “One the ladies here had her husband's name out here. It's important to recognize them.”

The ceremony closed with three volleys by the canon battery, leaving an impact on those who attended.

“I was overwhelmed by the event,” described Payne. “ It was very touching, an honor to be a part of, and an honor to be there.”
By USAF AFC Daniel Phelps
20th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Copyright 2010

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