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AFGSC commander sends Memorial Day message

  • Published
  • By Lt. Gen. Jim Kowalski
  • Air Force Global Strike Command commander
On Memorial Day, we pay tribute to the uniformed men and women who have given everything in our nation's defense. From the battlefields of past struggles to the current fight, we set aside this day each year to honor fallen Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines.

This year Global Strike Command lost two Airmen in combat. Deployed to Afghanistan, fellow Strikers and Explosive Ordnance Disposal teammates Tech. Sgt. Matthew Schwartz of the 90th Missile Wing and Senior Airman Bryan Bell of the 2d Bomb Wing gave their lives in service to their joint unit and our nation while clearing roadways of improvised explosive devices.

We in Global Strike Command remember Schwartz and Bell, and reflect on the long line of Airmen who came before us. Many of those Airmen shared our long range strike heritage, and wore the patches of 8th Air Force or 20th Air Force ... Airmen who may have just sewn on their uniforms the new insignia of a squadron rushed into combat to defeat fascism. Insignia that is now legendary, and proudly displayed by Airmen serving today. These insignia are powerful symbols that remind us we are held to a higher standard, and live for a greater purpose.

Whether in combat in WWII, where 8th Air Force and 20th Air Force lost nearly 27,000 Airmen; or in harsh and dangerous "peacetime" duties during the Cold War; or in any of the conflicts between Korea and current operations in Afghanistan, we are humbled by the discipline, courage and mental toughness they showed as they faced a deadly and determined enemy. Their example gives us the foundation for dealing with our own complex challenges, to include serving our nation, our community, and our family in a way that honors their legacy...and their sacrifice.

In a defining moment in the 1998 film, Saving Private Ryan, as Capt. Miller lay dying, he tells Private Ryan "earn this ... earn it." That is the message for all of us, military and civilian, on this day--to care about something more than ourselves, and to end our days having earned the sacrifice of those who, in the words of President Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, gave their "last full measure" for us.

Please pause this Memorial Day to reflect on those who have gone before, to remember the family members who will always have an empty place in their hearts, and to re-dedicate ourselves, to the "unfinished work which they ... have so nobly advanced."