Selfridge Airmen Mark Memorial Day

  • Published
  • By TSgt. Dan Heaton
  • 127th Wing Public Affairs
A backyard barbeque. A parade. Just a quiet moment.

The Airmen of Selfridge Air National Guard Base will mark Memorial Day as will most Americans, mindful of the sacrifice of those who have paid the ultimate price to ensure freedom and liberty. Helping area residents to mark the occasion, A-10 Thunderbolt II attack aircraft from Selfridge will be flying over about two dozen parades and Memorial Day observances across lower Michigan.

"The Airmen - and the members of all the services - stationed here at Selfridge join with our deployed colleagues around the world in paying tribute to those who have given their life for their country," said Col. Michael Thomas, a KC-135 Stratotanker pilot and 127th Wing commander at Selfridge. "On Memorial Day we are faced with the stark reminder that freedom is most certainly not free."

Like most of the nation's military bases, Selfridge is filled with silent reminders of those who have given their lives in service both in combat and in expanded the capabilities of our great nation. The base is named for Thomas E. Selfridge, who died during a 1908 trial flight of a Wright Brothers aircraft. Those trials eventually led to the first purchase of an aircraft by the U.S. military, the first step on a path that ultimately led to the creation of the U.S. Air Force. Most of the streets on the base are named for American Airmen who died while in service to the nation, many in World War II.

Though soldiers have honored their fallen comrades in arms since the very dawn of time, the modern American Memorial Day was born in the anguish of a war between the states. Even as the Civil War still raged, Union Gen. John A. Logan was believed to be the first to call for a "Decoration Day" in late May when the graves of fallen soldiers would be decorated with flowers to honor the sacrifice of the individual soldier. The date of May 30 was eventually selected for Decoration Day, largely because that date did not coincide with the anniversary of any battle. As a healing measure for the nation, the graves of both Union and Confederate soldiers were decorated. On May 30, 1868, in the first large-scale Decoration Day ceremony, former general and future president James Garfield gave a speech at Arlington National Cemetery and assisted some 5,000 volunteers as they decorated the graves of some 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers buried there.

Following World War I, the name of the holiday was changed to Memorial Day to honor all of America's war dead. In the late 1960s, the date for the holiday was changed from May 30 to the last Monday in the month of May.

About 1,700 Citizen-Airmen are assigned to the 127th Wing of the Michigan Air National Guard at Selfridge. A total of some 3,000 personnel work full-time at Selfridge, representing elements of the Air Force, Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard, as well as the U.S. Customs & Border Protection service. In addition, some 3,000 members of the National Guard and military Reserve forces are assigned to the base, including the Airmen of the 127th Wing.