By Ann Patton
Academy Spirit staff
Military members, friends and family members gathered on the Academy Cemetery May 27 to honor America’s fallen heroes in a Memorial Day tribute.
“We must never forget the meaning of this Memorial Day,” said Col. Todd Robison, 10th Air Base Wing vice commander.
He encouraged those present to remember the ultimate sacrifice of the U.S. men and women who died in service to their country and express gratitude “for all that has been given by our Airmen, Soldiers, Sailors and Marines.”
This is the first year ceremonies were held at the cemetery due to an early graduation date. Normally commemoration of Memorial Day on the Academy is integrated into activities of the organizational awards parade the Monday preceding graduation.
Colonel Robison also encouraged participants to pause for three minutes at 3 p.m. on this year’s Memorial Day May 31 to remember our heroes.
The tribute was established by the White House Commission on Remembrance which sponsors the National Moment of Remembrance, Public Law 106-579, which invites everyone to pause where they are at 3 p.m. on Memorial Day in an uplifting act of national unity.
Formerly known as Decoration Day, Memorial Day is a federal holiday observed on the last Monday of May, was first enacted to honor Union Soldiers of the American Civil War and was expanded after World War I.
The brief ceremony on the Academy began with lowering the colors, followed by laying of the wreath beneath the flag pole, playing of Taps and the 21-gun salute.
Participating in the remembrances were members of the Knights of Columbus’ from area Councils.
Bob Green, Knights of Columbus member and Air Force retiree, stressed their participation was to honor the fallen no matter their personal beliefs.
“We are very patriotic, and we’re honoring everyone who served,” he said.
John Young, Class of 1969, attended to honor friends and classmates at rest there.
“It was a very nice ceremony, and the weather really cooperated,” he said and explained the presence of nickel coins on headstones is part of the Air Force tradition of “nickels on grass,” symbolizing survival.
Mr. Young’s son, Brad Young, Class of 2004, is now flying F-22s for the Air Force.
Academy mortuary affairs officer Janet Edwards estimated 1,200 are buried and memorialized at the cemetery. Last year the Academy arranged 37 military funerals, which traditionally can include participation by the Academy’s Honor Guard.
Staff Sgt. Michiyo Litynski was among the dozen or so Honor Guard members present. She is proud to be one of them.
“I thought it would be something to give back to my country and a symbol of where I come from,” she said.