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"An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last."
Sir Winston Churchill

5.28.2007

"Absent, Sir"

USAFA Chapel

Memorial Day always reminds me of a particular tradition of the Air Force Academy.

Each Memorial Day, cadets muster for a formation on the terrazzo in the Cadet Area. In a typical formation, accomplished perhaps a dozen times a week, each cadet squadron commander in turn would report in to their group staff by saying something along the lines of "29th Squadron all present and accounted for, sir".

This formation was always different.

As cadets stood silently at attention, the names of graduates who had fallen in battle were read, and the lonely voice of the squadron commander of their cadet squadron would call out, "Absent, sir."

Old Glory As Seen from USAFA Chapel


Words fail me in describing the feelings invoked by each mournful "Absent, sir."

Sadness, surely, although few knew any who had fallen.

Curiosity, certainly. How did they fall? We knew the stories of a few, but dozens were listed.

And pride. So proud to be part of this tradition, in the ranks of so many who would willingly lay down their lives for country and comrades if only to be remembered in the most important formation Air Force Academy cadets ever participate in.

Those Who Have Gone Before Us

Whenever I get back to the Zoo, I always stop in an out-of-the-way bit of the chapel where hang (too many) plaques honoring fallen graduates. I look for my classmates, men and women I knew once, who have passed on. Not all fell in battle, or in training; too many died in stupid accidents which those of us who've reached our 30s managed to avoid more from good fortune than from wisdom. They are not forgotten. Nor will we be, when our time comes.

There is a peace in that recognition, a solace.

And every Memorial Day, thanks to the United States Air Force Academy and the scores of heroes who've marched up the Bring Me Men ramp therein (it's still there, though the P.C. police have ripped the offending words down), that precious peace is mine again.

The POW Pew - USAFA Chapel

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1 Comments:

Blogger Erik said...

God Bless the Men and Women of the Skies

11:52 AM  

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