SOUTHWEST ASIA -- The Civil War ended nearly 150 years ago on May
9, 1865, marking the beginning to a new era. However, many lives
were lost during the more than four-year war; and, as a result, the
Grand Army of the Republic established what was then called
"Decoration Day" three years later on May 5, 1868.
U.S. Air Force Memorial Day
photo illustration by Luke Borland
It wasn't until after World War I the day was expanded to
honor those who have died in all American wars. More than a
century later in 1971, Congress declared the last Monday in
May to be Memorial Day.
The federal holiday affords
Americans an opportunity to reflect on the lives lost
protecting the nation's interests at home and abroad. For servicemembers
deployed to the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing in Southwest
Asia, it's a way to be thankful for the freedoms Americans
enjoy every day.
"For me, it's honoring those who
have served before me, both past and present," said Tech.
Sgt. Ginger Bell, a 379th Force Support Squadron food
service contracting office representative, whose father and
sister have both served in the military.
tradition is what brought many to join the ranks. For Petty
Officer 3rd Class Andrew Black, he's continuing that legacy.
"My father served in Vietnam," Black said, who is an
aviation electrician with the VAQ-138 Electronic Attack
Squadron here. "When your country calls you to do something
-- to be a part of something bigger than yourself -- you
proudly stand up and serve. I joined to be that person
others learn to rely on, uphold life at all cost and keep
These freedoms do not come without cost
-- a truth all servicemembers know when they raise their
right hand and take the oath.
"I think of the guys
who, through thick and thin, survived the foxholes, the
diseases and bullets flying everywhere to save their friends
and family from those who stop at nothing to do us harm,"
said Senior Airman David Carter, a 379th Expeditionary
Maintenance Squadron aircrew ground equipment journeyman,
who also comes from a long line of military service. "We are
where we're at as a country because of the sacrifices our
military has made."
The origins of special services
to honor those who die in war can be found more than 2,400
years ago. The Athenian leader, Pericles, offered a tribute
to the fallen heroes of the Peloponnesian War that could be
applied today to the 1.1 million Americans who died in the
nation's wars: "Not only are they commemorated by columns
and inscriptions, but there dwells also an unwritten
memorial of them, graven not on stone but in the hearts of
Over the years, Memorial Day evolved into a day
Americans remember all those who died.
"The day means
remembering all those who have passed," said Senior Airman
Caprice Tyler, a 379th Expeditionary Security Forces
Squadron patrolman. "It's showing respect for my loved ones
regardless of if they've served in the military or not."
In December 2000, Congress passed and the president
signed into law "The National Moment of Remembrance Act,"
which encourages all Americans to pause wherever they are at
3 p.m. relative local time on Memorial Day for a minute of
silence to remember and honor those who died in service to
"Please keep all our veterans in mind,"
said Senior Airman Dustin Elliott, a 379th Expeditionary
Logistics Readiness Squadron vehicle operator. "Remember our
prisoners of war and those missing in action. This day
embodies everything we enlisted for, so take a moment to
remember those who have come before you."
By USAF Senior Airman Benjamin Stratton
Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
Air Force News Service
Comment on this article