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Memorial Day: Remember the fallen and their families

  • Published
  • By Lt. Gen. Stephen Wilson
  • Commander, Air Force Global Strike Command
Memorial Day weekend is so much more than a signal of summer's approach -- it focuses the Nation on the heroes who died while serving in this great country's armed forces. The first official Memorial Day observance was held at Arlington National Cemetery on May 30, 1868, to honor and decorate the graves of those who died during the Civil War. After World War I, the holiday was expanded to commemorate all U.S. men and women who died while serving in the military.

This year marks 50 years since the start of the Vietnam War. On December 19, 1972, during a bombing mission in North Vietnam, B-52 tail gunner CMSgt Charlie Poole paid the ultimate sacrifice when his aircraft was struck by a surface-to-air missile. Years later, the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command discovered the B-52 wreckage, and CMSgt Poole was laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery 31 years to the day of his death.

CMSgt Poole's death illustrates two important points. We never leave a man behind and we will always remember the ultimate sacrifice of our fallen heroes. This weekend we honor the more than one million Airmen, Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen who paid the cost of our freedom with their blood and sacrifice. We also affirm our commitment to military family survivors, our wounded warriors and their families.

The people of this Nation celebrate Memorial Day in many ways. Some celebrate by decorating the graves of fallen loved ones while others have gatherings with family and friends. Whichever way you choose to celebrate, I ask you to take a moment to pause and remember the fallen and their families this Memorial Day.

Thank you for all that you do for AFGSC and our Air Force!