Selfridge Airmen support local Memorial Day events

  • Published
  • By TSgt. Dan Heaton
  • 127th Public Affairs
Fighter aircraft from Selfridge Air National Guard Base will be crisscrossing the skies over southeastern Michigan during Memorial Day weekend, supporting local observances of the day set aside to honor those who died wearing the nation's uniform.

On Memorial Day, A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft from Selfridge, flown by citizen-Airmen of the Michigan Air National Guard, will perform flyovers of more than 30 Memorial Day parades and observances in the greater Detroit region. Memorial Day this year will be on Monday, May 25.

The A-10s, which are also popularly known as the Warthog, will be a new participant in the region's Memorial Day events. Selfridge's 127th Wing began flying the A-10s earlier this month. The Wing had been flying F-16s fighters at the base for almost 20 years. The F-16s, known as the Fighting Falcon, have been re-assigned out of state.

"Even as we look to the future, it is critical that we remember the sacrifices of the past," said Brig. Gen. Michael Peplinski, commanding general of the 127th Wing at Selfridge. "The fly-bys of our aircraft at our local Memorial Day parades and observances are intended to help local citizens reflect upon the price that has been paid by our fallen heroes."

Memorial Day has a long and solemn history. Though the holiday was not officially established by federal law until 1971, the annual observance of some type of memorial to honor the war dead dates back to the years immediately following the Civil War. In the spring in the year after the war ended, widows and freed slaves in various locations came together to places flowers or other decorations on the graves of fallen soldiers.

In 1868, former Union Gen. John Logan, president of the Grand Army of the Republic, a fraternal organization made up of former Union soldiers, issued a proclamation declaring May 30 as "Decoration Day." On that day, Americans were urged to decorate graves "with the choicest flowers of springtime" ... "We should guard their graves with sacred vigilance. ... Let pleasant paths invite the coming and going of reverent visitors and fond mourners. Let no neglect, no ravages of time, testify to the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten as a people the cost of a free and undivided republic."

Over the years, the observances became more formalized as various states began to officially recognize Decoration Day as a holiday. The term "Memorial Day" slowly began to come into use in the late 1800s and after World War I, the name Memorial Day began to be used almost exclusively as the day became a time to honor all of the nation's fallen military heroes, not just those from the Civil War.

In 1968, during the Vietnam War, Congress voted to officially change the name to Memorial Day and move the date of the holiday from May 30 to the last Monday in May. The law took effect in 1971. In 2000, Congress passed a law created a National Moment of Remembrance, calling for a minute of silent reflection on the sacrifices made by those who died in military combat. The moment of remembrance is called for at 3 p.m. local time on Memorial Day.