THE AIR FORCE MEMORIAL FOUNDATION WAS INCORPORATED IN January 1992 to pursue the development of a Memorial that would honor the men and women of the United States Air Force and its heritage organizations. After almost 15 years of project development the Memorial was dedicated and accepted on behalf of the American people by President George W. Bush on October 14, 2006.
The Age of flight ushered in an era of brave individuals, who flew before it was safe to fly, and who blazed a trail in the sky so that others might follow. The legacy of courage and valor of these early heroic airmen has remained the bedrock of the culture of the Air Force and its predecessor organizations, ever since Wilbur Wright flew the first military aircraft for the first time in 1907.
The personal qualities that describe an Air Force hero today are no different that those qualities that opitomized the well-known flyers in conflicts over the past century. There are roughly 595,000 Americans currently serving in the United States Air Force who personify ingenuity, innovation, courage and sacrifice in the work they do to maintain the proud heritage of the Air Force.
Through their deeds, in combat as well as everyday life, the heroes of yesterday and today shape our finest aspirations. Young men and women serve throughout the Air Force on the ground and in the air, on the runways and in the control towers, in the hangers and the hospitals, in the command posts and in the commissaries, at home and abroad, in humanitarian airlifts and combat missions, in safety and in danger. In their service to their country, today’s airmen can look to the courage and sacrifice of Air Force heroes, and strive to uphold those same values for the airmen of tomorrow.
Air Force heroes are also found in the homes of Air Force families. They are the sons and daughters, husbands and wives, and mothers and fathers who support and make possible the service of their family members. This is never so true as when airmen are called upon to go in harm’s way for the greater cause of defending freedom. These individuals represent the very best of America and its values.
More than 54,000 American airmen have been killed in combat. They are among our finest Air Force Heroes, and we owe them a debt of gratitude for their sacrifices and for safeguarding American freedom.
Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings,
Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds - and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of - wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov'ring there,
I've chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air.
Up, up the long, delirious burning blue
I've topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or even eagle flew.
And, while with silent, lifting mind I've trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.
Pilot Officer John Gillespie Magee, Jr. (September 1941)