Story and photos by
Staff Sgt. Jonathan Bass
86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
THIAUCOURT-REGNIEVILLE, France — In celebration of the 100th Memorial Day, Brig. Gen. Mark R. August, 86th Airlift Wing commander, attended a remembrance ceremony at Saint-Mihiel American Cemetery, Thiaucourt-Regniéville, France, May 26.
Saint-Mihiel American cemetery is the final resting place for more than 4,000 Americans, including one Medal of Honor recipient and 117 unknown Americans; as well as a wall featuring 284 who are missing in action. As part of the ceremony, the 37th Airlift Squadron conducted a C-130J Super Hercules flyover.
“We gather this Memorial Day weekend at this peaceful site amongst these Linden trees and we remember the commitment of our blood and treasure,” said August.
To recognize and commemorate those who fell in the line of duty, August reminded the crowd who these Americans were.
“These are members of our family, our brothers in arms, and these stories and memories remain with us today,” he said.
Those fallen Americans were assigned to the newly formed First Army, commanded by General of the Armies John J. Pershing, who led more than 500,000 Americans and 110,000 allied forces in a massive campaign to seize ground which was held by the German army for more than three years during World War I.
“(Pershing) forged a combined arms team of infantry, artillery, airpower, and tanks,” August said. “This plan had tanks supporting the advancing infantry, with two tank companies interspersed into a depth of at least three lines. The result was an almost unopposed assault, reaching its first day’s objective before noon, and the second day’s objective by late afternoon.
The attack went so well that Pershing ordered a speedup in the offensive. By the morning of 13 Sept., the 1st Division, The Big Red One advancing from the East, joined up with the 26th Division, the Yankee Division moving in from the West, and before evening, all objectives had been captured,” he continued.
“The sacrifice of those resting here in eternal peace was not about fame, not about fortune, not about force,” August said. “Instead, these heroes gave their lives to end a horrific war, to preserve democratic values, and to fight for each other.”
After concluding his remarks, August laid a memorial wreath and Staff Sgt. Nicholas Del Villano, U.S. Air Forces in Europe Jazz Band trumpeter, played taps.