Honoring the fallen

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Gustavo Castillo
  • 52nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs
A fragile silence engulfs a field of white crosses.

Three slow, somber notes then resonate through the headstones. A small group of service members of past and present stand with their loved ones as taps is played from an unseen bugler.

"This is a very touching and memorable occasion today," said John Hobson, who fought alongside his brothers-in-arms who now lay beside him under dirt and well-groomed sod. "We want to extend our love and gratitude to the Holland and Belgium people for perpetuating our boys here in this cemetery."

Hobson spoke with a soft tone, thoughtfully taking time between words. His coarse silver hair was tucked beneath his ball cap, which had the words "World War II Veteran" inscribed in bold.

Ceremonies like this May 6, 2013, one are commonplace for the 52nd Fighter Wing Honor Guard, who are often requested to facilitate memorials.

Some request only a bugler or a squad to deliver three volleys from their ceremonial M-1 Garand rifles. Today, the honor guard presented the colors and stood side-by side with the veterans of  WWII.

"It was a remarkable and almost unrealistic experience to be a part of history of such high value," said U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Keith Washington, as he adjusted his ceremonial cap after the ceremony. "It reminded me of the ultimate sacrifice some service members pay, and that because of those individuals, I have the opportunity to wear my uniform today."

They have the broadest geographical coverage of any other U.S. Air Forces in Europe's honor guard team, traveling to hold ceremonies in Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Poland, Denmark, and northern Germany.

The tour included visiting the Margraten American Cemetery in the Netherlands, bringing both veterans and veteran families from the 104th Infantry Division together to trace the battlefield campaign made along the German border, all the while paying respects to the loved ones lost.

"The last image of their loved ones that they ever get is us, current active members, going out there and performing these memorial services," said U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Benjamin Nason, who has been a part of honor guard for close to two and a half years. "Letting them know that even though they may be fallen, they are not forgotten."