Remembering those who gave their all.
I had the privilege today to be present at the 148th Memorial Ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery. I have visited a couple times in the distant past, but today was the first time that I attended a formal Memorial Day Ceremony. There was quite a line to get in through security, though it moved quickly. (TSA, you could learn something from the Secret Service and the Army)
The gentleman behind me was complaining to his wife that the line was so long and that the uniformed service members were also waiting in the same line. Maybe I should have shared my thoughts: “A long line for today’s ceremony means that the people care enough to honor those who did lay down their lives for our country.” And “Our service men are citizens too.”
And they kept coming, this view is just as I got to security, the line is no shorter than when I started.
Part of the Presidential security detail getting into position.
But it wasn’t just Americans who came to pay their respects today. A group of Germans were not too far ahead of me in line and ended up across the aisle at the ceremony.
And they too, rendered honors at the playing of Taps.
The VFW was well represented in the color parties.
I heard my first live 21 gun salute during the arrival of the official party. All of the speakers spoke well and gave respectful honors to those who gave their lives for their country.
Retiring the colors.
After the ceremony I visited the Tomb of the Unknowns.
Exiting the amphitheater, I came across a pair of group headstones that have special meaning to me. I learned of both sets of deaths on the flight deck of a C-130 while prepping for a training mission. The first, in 1980, was the calamity at Desert One while attempting to rescue the hostages from Iran. That event inspired me to volunteer for Special Ops flying. I didn’t know any of the men involved personally, but they did have an impact on my career.
The second incident memorialized here really hit me in the gut. I was prepping for my first flight in the C-130A at Wright-Patt when my instructor came out late and said the Space Shuttle just blew up. Frank said it so nonchalantly; we all thought he was kidding to explain his tardiness. Only after we returned from the flight and saw that endless loop of the video of the explosion, did the reality set in. I lost two people that I did know. The Commander, Dick Scobee, was the son of my Air Force Academy Liaison Officer.
Ellison Onizuka had taken time out of his schedule as an instructor at the USAF Test Pilot School in the summer of ’77 to teach a young cadet how to operate and program the HP calculators that they were using for data analysis.
That young cadet was me.
Today was a moving day for me. One where I recalled the memories of many comrades who are no longer with us like Tony, one of my loadmasters, killed in the LAPES demonstration crash of 1987 or my classmate, Gary, whose parents told him he couldn’t come home if he quit the Academy. Gary went home in a box. They live on in my memories as do the thousands of others living in the memories of their comrades, friends, and loved ones.
John C. Barry, Major, USAF (Ret)