Service Before Self is one of the Air Force’s core values and most Airmen stationed overseas have the unique opportunity to give back not only to their military communities but their host nation communities through volunteerism.
There are many avenues for U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa Airmen and their families to volunteer through private organizations: Like the American Red Cross and the United Service Organizations.
Recently, Airmen and spouses from USAFE-AFAFRICA came together to volunteer their off-duty time to clean up the Lorraine American Cemetery and Memorial in France.
“It’s incredible that we get to wake up every day in Germany with the rest of Europe in our backyard essentially — but often times we can forget how we even got here,” said Staff Sgt. Ayisha Jones, USAFE-AFAFRICA unit deployment management cell. “I think it’s important to honor the ones that came before us.”
According to the American Battle Monuments Commission, there are 10,489 WWII service members buried amongst 113.5 acres at the Lorraine American Cemetery and 444 are listed as missing in action. It is the largest burial site of WWII service members in Europe.
The volunteers cleaned the headstones by hand and reflected on what it means to serve.
“We forget about the sacrifices that the men and women who came before us made,” said Tech. Sgt. Angelica Ponce, USAFE-AFAFRICA non-commissioned officer in charge of Protocol. “Knowing that there are 10,489 burials and 444 MIA individuals at the Lorraine American Cemetery alone, is mind blowing and humbling. Knowing that we could contribute to keep their final resting place as clean and peaceful as possible is a rewarding experience.”
The ABMC is always looking for volunteers to help with the upkeep of the 26 permanent cemeteries around the world.
For more volunteer opportunities, contact your local Airman and Family Readiness Center.