Military News

Monday, May 25, 2015

Fallen heroes honored on Memorial Day

by Airman 1st Class Tryphena Mayhugh
86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

5/24/2015 - RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany  -- Memorial Day is a special day set aside each year to honor and remember the sacrifices of more than one million Airmen, Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen who gave the ultimate sacrifice for freedom.

American military members from World War I were paid respects during a gathering May 24 at Saint-Mihiel American Cemetery in Thiaucourt, France. Both American and French citizens attended the ceremony to pay honor those laid to rest in the cemetery.

Lt. Gen. Tom Jones, U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa vice commander, spoke during the ceremony, reflecting upon the many lives that were lost during the battle.

"On this Memorial Day, as we look at all of the headstones before us, it reminds me of what Pericles once said," said Jones in his speech. "Not only are they commemorated by columns and inscriptions, but there dwells also an unwritten memorial of them, written not on stone, but in the hearts of men."

The ceremony also included the U.S. Air Forces in Europe band, the 86th Airlift Wing Honor Guard, an Honor Platoon and a flyover by a C-130J Super Hercules to render honors to those buried in the cemetery.

"Today's ceremony was humbling for my family and I, as a third generation Airman," said Major Mike Andrews, U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa Public Affairs deputy director. "To see our French friends honor and recognize the sacrifice of Americans almost one hundred years ago is truly an honor."

Both American and French flags were flown at half-staff during the ceremony as a tribute to the fallen military members, and were raised during the playing of Taps at the conclusion of the ceremony.

Saint-Mihiel American Cemetery is where more than 4,100 military members were laid to rest after giving the ultimate sacrifice for their country in the battle of Saint-Mihiel. The victory won there crippled the enemy's defenses and ultimately contributed to the Allies winning the war.

"It is my sincere hope that these men, women and their families will continue to rest peacefully with the knowledge that our nations, in and out of uniform, will forever honor their memories," said Jones.

While this battle is often referred to as "the birth of the American Army," many also attribute it as the birth of the Air Force. It marked the first large concentration of military aircraft (more than 1,400) used in combat. The cemetery is also the resting place of 1st Lt. John L. Mitchell, younger brother of Col. Billy Mitchell, as well as Lieutenants Samuel R. Keesler Jr., John J. Goodfellow and Franklin B. Bellows, all of whom had bases named after them.

Every year, Memorial Day is held to reflect upon the sacrifices made by military members who gave the last full measure of devotion to their country and to pay them due respect. Freedom comes with a price, and it is through the bravery of those who put down their lives as the cost that it can be enjoyed by military members and families today.

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