JOINT BASE ANDREWS, Md. --
Last Friday night was picture perfect as four 1st Helicopter Squadron UH-1s from Joint Base Andrews, Md., lined up in formation just before sunset to make a pass over the Air Force Memorial and kick off the second in a series of Heritage to Horizon events celebrating the Air Force’s 70th birthday.
The theme of the evening was “Supporting the Air Force family,” and the event was attended by Gold Star families, Blue Star families and representatives from several family advocacy groups. Performances by the U.S. Air Force band, and the U.S. Air Force Honor Guard were designed to highlight the evening’s theme.
The Air Force band’s commander, and the evening’s conductor, Col. Larry Lang paid special tribute to the honored guests in attendance by saying, “We’re especially grateful to our Gold Star families, and to all of the family advocacy groups that are here this evening.” He added, “This is a night about our families. We couldn’t do what we do in uniform without you.”
Co-hosting the celebration were Undersecretary of the Air Force, the Honorable Lisa Disbrow , and Air Force Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Stephen Wilson. The vice chief highlighted the sacrifices made by Air Force families by saying, “We ask our Airmen to make some terrific sacrifices. We ask that of our families as well, and they never get the gratitude or the respect that they really deserve.”
Wilson then paid tribute to his co-host’s long record of public service: “Secretary Disbrow has been remarkable. She’s sacrificed! She sacrificed as a uniformed member on active duty, a reservist, a military spouse, and as a civil servant. She has led our Air Force incredibly well.” He added, “When we talk about families look no further than the Disbrows. They are the role models who epitomize what’s so great about our Air Force, and so great about our country. Thank you for your service to our nation.”
For her part Disbrow paid homage to the Air Force family as a whole, and as a sum of its parts by saying, “We need more than just a strong community, we need an extended family that knits together mothers, fathers, son, and daughters into new friendships, and builds bonds that last a lifetime. This is what we mean by Air Force family. This is what we mean by a military family.” She added, “From this place of love and community we derive our greatest strength, the firm foundation that allows us to reach towards the heavens. It’s the solid bedrock that supports operations here at home and around the world. The strength of our Air Force truly is our Air Force family. I can tell you this. No weapon system, no acquisition, no technology can ever match what you provide our force and our nation.”
Disbrow concluded by noting the sacrifice of families who’ve lost a loved one in service to their nation, “We honor your sacrifice, we share your loss, and we treasure the memories of those heroes. We resolve with our hearts full of pride to make our families stronger, to embrace our heritage, and to celebrate the stories of the brave men and women who came before us all. Being part of the Air Force family is never easy, but I can tell you from personal experience, there’s no family I’d rather have.”
There are two more Heritage to Horizon designated events at the Memorial, which are themed “Breaking Barriers” on July 7th, and “Portraits in Courage” on August 4th. The Air Force band also performs concerts every Friday night at the Air Force Memorial throughout the summer.
There is also an Independence Day celebration on July 4 at the Memorial featuring the Air Force Band. A Heritage Flight of Veterans from WWII and Korea are expected to attend that special event, so mark your calendar for that event, or any of the other Summer-long events, to come out and help celebrate the United States Air Force’s 70 years of breaking barriers.
According to the American Gold Star Mothers, Inc. Website a Gold Star family is one who’ve lost a son or daughter in the service of their country.
A Blue Star family is one who has a family member currently in the Armed Forces during a period of war or hostilities in which the United States in engaged.
The tradition dates back to World War I when the family of a U.S. military member would hang out a flag, which became known as the service flag, with a blue star in a white field surrounded by a red border. If the serving member died the blue star would be replaced with a gold star.
For more information on the history of the service flag please visit the following websites:
Blue Star Mothers
Gold Star Moms