On Saturday, President Bush joined Defense Secretary Rumsfeld and a glittering array of Air Force heroes from both the past and present to dedicate the Air Force Memorial.
The Memorial is a stunning visual display with three stainless steel spires rising 270 feet from a promontory point near the Pentagon. The design is meant to invoke memories of Air Force fighter jets taking off into the sky. It's a major addition to the skyline of the monument studded Capital area.
In his remarks, the President recalled his own experience in military aviation and that of his father and those who have and are now serving:
THE PRESIDENT: ...Having flown an F-102, I know the exhilaration of flight; and as a son of an aviator who was shot down in combat, I am keenly aware of its dangers. I have spent a lot of time with the aviators, and one thing about them that has always struck me, aviators, by their nature, are optimistic people. It takes an optimist to climb into a steel tube, race to the sky at 1,500 miles an hour heading toward danger, and expect to return home safely. Yet this is precisely what the men and women of the Air Force do for our country every day.The Memorial is such a visual experience, fewer words and more photos seemed appropriate:
America is grateful for your service, and I'm proud to be the Commander-in-Chief of such fine men and women. (Applause.)
Every man and woman who has worn the Air Force uniform is part of a great history. From the Berlin Airlift to the Korea War, to Vietnam, to the Gulf War, to Kosovo and today's war on terror, a long blue line of heroes has defended freedom in the skies above. To all who have climbed sunward and chased the shouting wind, America stops to say: Your service and sacrifice will be remembered forever, and honored in this place by the citizens of a free and grateful nation.
May God bless you all. (Applause.)
The Commander in Chief salutes Airmen on his arrival.
A lighter moment with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.
U.S. Air Force F-16 aircraft from the Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron Thunderbirds (official site here) perform their signature "bomb burst" maneuver, the inspiration for the memorial, at the closing of the dedication ceremony.US Air Force Band.
Learn more about the memorial from the Air Force Memorial Foundation.