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Country musician Lee Ann Womack headlines at Air Force Memorial dedication

By Staff Sgt. C. Todd Lopez

WASHINGTON (Oct. 14, 2006) -- With both the newly dedicated Air Force Memorial and the Pentagon looming nearby, country music vocalist LeeAnn Womack belted out tunes that both entertained and bolstered already present sentiments of patriotism.

Ms. Womack's performance in a parking lot of the Pentagon here began shortly after the Air Force finished a ceremony to dedicate its new memorial here Oct. 14. The star told attendees of the free concert that she was proud her performance could be included as part of the important Air Force event.

Country music performer LeeAnn Womack performs for more than 25,000 spectators gathered at the Air Force open house at the Pentagon on Saturday, Oct. 14, 2006. The concert followed the official dedication ceremony of the Air Force Memorial. U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Rusti M. Caraker.

"I'm so proud to be here today," she said, during a break in her set.

Byron Ater, of Ashburn, Va. said that while he is not a country music fan, he thought it was an appropriate event for dedication of the Air Force memorial.

"This just shows that the public now supports the Air Force," he said. "The public cares, not like when I joined the service."

Mr. Ater served in the Air Force from 1972 until his retirement in 1992. He retired as a master sergeant and served both as an electronic countermeasures technician and a later as a lab technician. When he joined the Air Force in 1972, during the closing of the Vietnam Conflict, he said the public did not support the military as they do today.

Ms. Womack has said she has taken inspiration for her singing and music career from other stars like Tammy Wynette, Dolly Parton and Loretta Lynne. Her music includes hits such as "I Hope You Dance," "Never Again, Again," and "A Little Past Little Rock." In 2005, her song "I May Hate Myself In the Morning" was named single of the year by the Country Music Association, and her album "There's More Where That Came From" was named album of the year.

Until now, the Air Force was the only service of the United States military without a memorial of its own in the nation's capital. The service's new 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. The Memorial 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.