9th AF/AFCENT commander reflects on Memorial Day

  • Published
  • By Lt. Gen. Gary L. North
  • 9th Air Force/USAFCENT Commander
On the 140th Anniversary of Memorial Day, we pay tribute to those service members who paid the ultimate price for freedom and democracy throughout America's history.

Decoration Day, the precursor to Memorial Day, was designated as a day of remembrance in 1868 when Maj. Gen. Logan, of the Grand Army of the Republic, signed General Order 11. In the order he points out that our military was organized, in part, to strengthen the bonds between comrades. 

He adds, "What can aid more to assure this result than by cherishing tenderly the memory of our heroic dead? We should guard their graves with sacred vigilance. All that the consecrated wealth and taste of the nation can add to their adornment and security is but a fitting tribute to the memory of her slain defenders."

Although Decoration Day was created to honor the Civil War dead, the meaning has changed throughout the years. After World War I, Decoration Day was expanded to include honoring those who have died in all American Wars. In 1971, Congress officially declared Memorial Day as a national holiday.

On Memorial Day we will honor all of our service members who have given their lives fighting in our nation's wars. Since the Air Force became a separate service, more than 53,000 airmen have lost their lives in the service of their country including 76 Airmen who have died since the beginning of OEF and OIF.

This year, we remember 20 Airmen who have fallen in 2007 in the CENTCOM AOR alongside their comrades in arms from our other military services. These Airmen paid the ultimate price for the freedoms of our country and countries abroad. They join the ranks of hundreds of thousands of heroes who have gone before.

In December 2000, a National Moment of Remembrance resolution was passed which asks that on Memorial Day at 3 p.m. all Americans "voluntarily and informally observe in their own way a moment of remembrance and respect, pausing from whatever they are doing to for a moment of silence or listen to TAPS". 

Join with me at 3 p.m. wherever you are... to pause and reflect on those who gave their lives to help those nations pursue liberty and democracy. As the saying goes, if you enjoy freedom, thank a military member for preserving it for you.