WASHINGTON -- As the sun began to set over the National Capitol Region, several hundred people gathered at the Air Force Memorial with the District of Columbia-city landscape as the backdrop to witness a wreath-laying event, followed by a concert performed by the United States Air Force Band Aug. 14.
The wreath-laying ceremony and concert were held to recognize the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II and “honor the greatest generation,” said Lt. Gen. James M. “Mike” Holmes, the deputy chief of staff for Strategic Plans and Requirements, Headquarters Air Force.
“We are here today to honor those brave and often heroic individuals who served during World War II, their achievements, dedication and courage,” said Scott Van Cleef, the Air Force Association chairman of the board. “We wish to say thank you for their sacrifices. Seeing these brave men and women who join us tonight, and remembering those who are here only in spirit, I can’t help but feel awed by the enormity of what they have achieved. We stand in the midst of patriots and family and friends of those who have nobly served. They were ordinary people who responded in extraordinary ways in extreme times. They rose to the nation’s call because they wanted to protect the country that had given them so much.”
Following a moment of silence, an all-white arrangement of flowers and blue ribbon intertwined wreath was laid at the base of the Air Force Memorial.
“It’s an honor to be recognized and to show the flag,” said retired Marine Brig. Gen. Donald Brooks, who served in the 1st Division in Okinawa, Japan, during World War II, and he attended the event with a group of people from Falcon’s Landing in Sterling, Virginia. “We are going to hear some great music tonight.”
Followed by the singing of the national anthem, a four-ship formation of P-51 Mustangs performed a fly-over.
“It is impressive to be here and be a part of this,” said retired Master Sgt. William Tayman, who retired after 22 years in the Air Force as a ground radio electronic technician.
The U.S. Air Force Band performed some of the top hits from the era and ended by singing the songs of all armed services as individuals stood to be recognized for their service to their country.
“I can’t express it, the music, it tears me up, I just have no way to express it,” said 95-year-old retired Army Brig. Gen. James ‘J. Richard’ Compton, a World War II physician, as tears began to well in his eyes. “You lose a lot of your very, very good friends and we were all just pulling together in an absolutely astounding time. People gave up a lot, they all had somebody involved in it and we still pray for them.”