Remembering those who gave all

COLUMBUS AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. -- As we approach the first major holiday of 2017, Memorial Day is a day to remember those who have given their all for our country.

Over the course of my career, I’ve seen many people confuse Memorial Day for Veteran’s Day or for Independence Day. Those are significant holidays in their own right, but Memorial Day is set aside as a singular day to pay tribute and honor to those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice for our country.

Many people help observe Memorial Day by visiting cemeteries or memorials to those who have died in conflict. While serving in San Antonio, our family along with many other families who had Boy Scouts participated in an annual event placing small American Flags on each of the over 120,000 graves at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery there.

Columbus also has a significant connection to the Memorial Day Holiday. It is well documented that even before the Civil War was over, Southern women maintained, cleaned and decorated the graves of soldiers who had passed during the conflict. One of the stories of the origin of the first Memorial Day reports that a women’s memorial association organized here in Columbus put flowers on the graves of both Confederate and Union soldiers in 1866, an act which is said to have inspired the poem “The Blue and the Grey”.

Another tradition associates the wearing of red “Poppy” flowers on Memorial Day. The poem “In Flanders Fields” which commemorated the fallen from World War 1, was used as a reminder and visible object to honor our honored dead.

Memorial Day will forever have a special meaning for me and my family. On April 27, 2011, one of my assigned troops from the 99th Flying Training Squadron was killed while serving as an Air Advisor in Kabul, Afghanistan.

Maj. Jeff Ausborn was serving as a C-27 Instructor Pilot teaching the fledgling Afghan air force pilots to employ this newly acquired system. He had volunteered for a one-year remote deployment and had been part of the Air Advisor mission in Afghanistan for several months when an insider attack occurred and took the life of Ausborn and eight other members of the 438th Air Expeditionary Wing in Kabul. It was a dark day for our Air Force where nine of our fellow Airmen gave all for their country.

We all serve knowing that our oath may require us to pay the ultimate price for our country, but the cost is never as real as when that bill comes due and one of our close friends and teammates is taken from us. I know that I will always be thankful on Memorial Day for the over one million Americans who have died while serving their country during service in war time.

We all owe them our ultimate respect and I would ask you to please develop your own tradition during the start of your summer season to find a small way to honor those who have given all for our country. I’ll be thinking of Jeff and his family this Memorial Day.