Air Force leaders issue Memorial Day message

  • Published
  • By Michael B. Donley, Norton A. Schwartz
  • Air Force
To the Airmen of the United States Air Force and their Families:

As we pause this Memorial Day to honor those who have died in service of our great Nation, it is also useful to reflect on what this day of remembrance reveals about the character of our Nation and its people. History records that Major General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, formally designated May 30th, 1868 as a day to decorate the graves of the fallen.

History also suggests, however, that long before this formal decree, the people of several towns and cities organized local efforts to decorate service members' graves, demonstrating the deeply personal and heartfelt gratitude that Americans express for those who serve--and for those who sacrificed. Since its origin, Memorial Day has been an opportunity to pause and reflect on the sacrifices of the more than one million Soldiers, Marines, Sailors, Airmen, and Coast Guardsmen who have made the ultimate sacrifice to secure our freedoms.

Let us also not forget those who are still counted among the missing, including over 1,600 from action in Vietnam, 8,000 in Korea, and well over 73,000 in the Second World War. We also demonstrate America's character through our ceaseless efforts to account for each of them, with gratitude for their sacrifices and that of their families. No other nation in history has dedicated as much care, effort, and expense as we have to find our missing comrades and bring them home with the honor that they deserve. And, thanks to our staunch determination, 80 formerly missing service members--including 31 Airmen--have been returned to their families since January 2010.

Now that these 80 heroes have returned home, grateful Americans can decorate their graves on Memorial Day, too, along with those of many others who sacrificed all. This year, as we observe Memorial Day, let us renew not only our solemn gratitude for their sacrifice; let us also renew our thankfulness for having the privilege to serve such an exceptional Nation. Your sacrifices, and those of your families, have earned America's respect. Our proud Nation is truly grateful for your service.

Michael B. Donley
Secretary of the Air Force

Norton A. Schwartz
General, USAF
Chief of Staff