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Memorial represents military air power of the United States

By Staff Sgt. C. Todd Lopez

WASHINGTON (Oct. 14, 2006) -- The spires of the Air Force memorial represent the air power component of the most powerful force in the world.

Teshoma Hailu is a taxi cab driver in Arlington, Va. He came to the United States in 1975, with his wife, to escape political issues in his home country and to pursue educational opportunities here. Today, he has a Bachelor's degree in education and is a citizen of the United States.

Mr. Hailu has watched as the spires of the Air Force Memorial were assembled here and raised slowly over the Arlington skyline. He says the memorial illustrates the power of the United States.

"It indicates the military power of the United States aviation service," he said. "We are the number one world power, in military, manpower, and economics. Everything. There is nothing in the world like the United States."

Earlier in the week, Mr. Hailu had seen Air Force aircraft flying over the memorial to practice for the dedication here Oct. 14. He says he knows those same aircraft are there to protect him and wife.

"They protect us against attack from outsiders, he said, "They can fight for the United States."

Many of those who attended the dedication of the Air Force Memorial might not have ever had the experience of living in another country where freedom was available to all citizens. Mr. Hailu left Ethiopia, in part, to escape the communism there. Today, and in the past, he said, he defends his choice to come to the United States.

"I used to quarrel with my friends," he said. "They would say this is a capitalist country. I told them go to the Soviet Union and try to find work there. Who forces you to stay here in the United States? You have to appreciate what we have here in America."

The Air Force Memorial, dedicated Oct.14, 2006, comes at the beginning of a year-long series of commemoratory events leading up to the Air Force's 60th anniversary, Sept. 18, 2007.

The memorial is meant to honor the millions of men and women who have served in the Air Force since it was created, Sept. 18, 1947. It is also meant to commemorate the contributions of those who served in the many predecessor organizations that were combined to create the Air Force. Those organizations include the aeronautical division and aviation section of the U.S. Signal Corps; the Secretary of War's division of military aeronautics; the Army Air Service; the U.S. Army Air Corps; and the U.S. Army Air Forces. In all, more than 54,000 individuals have died in combat while serving in the Air Force and the organizations that were combined to create it. The memorial honors the memory of those individuals, the service of Airmen today, and the service of Airmen in the future.

The Air Force Memorial, while not inside the District of Columbia, is within walking distance of both the Pentagon and Arlington National Cemetery. From the memorial site, visitors can see the Pentagon, the Washington Monument, and the dome of the U.S. Capitol Building. The Memorial's spires can be seen on the horizon from miles away.

The predominate feature of the Air Force Memorial is a set of three stainless steel spires that jut from the ground, the tallest of which reaches some 270 feet into the air. The spires are meant to represent the Air Force's three core values as well as the "total force," which include members of the active duty Air Force, the Air National Guard, and the Air Force Reserve. Visually, the three spires remind visitors of the smoke trails left by aircraft of the Air Force Thunderbird Demonstration Team when they perform the "bomb burst" maneuver.

The memorial also includes a bronze statue that features four Air Force Honor Guard members, two granite inscription walls, a parade ground area, and a glass wall with engravings illustrating the "missing man" aircraft formation.

The Air Force Memorial was designed by the late architect, James Ingo Freed. Inside Washington, D.C., his designs include the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center, the Washington Opera House, and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.