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Air Force honored during national parade

A precession of flags is carried by volunteers at the National Memorial Day Parade on May 28, 2012 in Washington D.C. The annual National Memorial Day Parade is an opportunity for thousands of patriotic Americans to come together and honor those who have sacrificed so much in service to our country.

A precession of flags is carried by volunteers at the National Memorial Day Parade on May 28, 2012 in Washington D.C. The annual National Memorial Day Parade is an opportunity for thousands of patriotic Americans to come together and honor those who have sacrificed so much in service to our country. (Air Force Photo by Senior Airman Christina Brownlow)

Retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Chuck Yeager was the Grand Marshal at the National Memorial Day Parade, May 28, 2012 in Washington D.C. Yeager was the first pilot to break the sound barrier in 1947. The annual National Memorial Day Parade is an opportunity for thousands of patriotic Americans to come together and honor those who have sacrificed so much in service to our country.

Retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Chuck Yeager was the Grand Marshal at the National Memorial Day Parade, May 28, 2012 in Washington D.C. Yeager was the first pilot to break the sound barrier in 1947. The annual National Memorial Day Parade is an opportunity for thousands of patriotic Americans to come together and honor those who have sacrificed so much in service to our country. (Air Force Photo by Senior Airman Christina Brownlow)

The United States Air Force Band performs during the National Memorial Day Parade, May 28, 2012 in Washington D.C. The annual National Memorial Day Parade is an opportunity for thousands of patriotic Americans to come together and honor those who have sacrificed so much in service to our country.

The United States Air Force Band performs during the National Memorial Day Parade, May 28, 2012 in Washington D.C. The annual National Memorial Day Parade is an opportunity for thousands of patriotic Americans to come together and honor those who have sacrificed so much in service to our country. (Air Force Photo by Senior Airman Christina Brownlow)

The Chesapeake Caledonian Pipes and Drums Band performs at the National Memorial Day Parade, May 28, 2012 in Washington D.C. The annual National Memorial Day Parade is an opportunity for thousands of patriotic Americans to come together and honor those who have sacrificed so much in service to our country.

The Chesapeake Caledonian Pipes and Drums Band performs at the National Memorial Day Parade, May 28, 2012 in Washington D.C. The annual National Memorial Day Parade is an opportunity for thousands of patriotic Americans to come together and honor those who have sacrificed so much in service to our country. (Air Force Photo by Senior Airman Christina Brownlow)

WASHINGTON (AFNS) -- Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, was first officially proclaimed by Gen. John Logan, Grand Army of the Republic national commander, with the issuance of General Order 11 May 5, 1868.

The order says "The 30th day of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet church-yard in the land."

Since then, many things have been added to the observance, but one in particular has become one of the most iconic -- the Memorial Day parade.

And this year the Air Force's sacrifices and contributions to America's freedom took center stage in the National Memorial Day parade here.

According to the American Veterans Center here, the National Memorial Day Parade is not merely an event for Washington but an event for the entire country. It's a parade that seeks to draw the attention of Americans to the real meaning for the holiday: honoring those who have served, and died, to preserve our liberties.

And with that, the center chose this year to highlight the sacrifices of Airmen throughout history.

The grand marshal was retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Chuck Yeager, famed Air Force test pilot, first pilot to break the sound barrier, and World War II ace pilot.

The event also featured several Korean War veterans as honorary parade marshals as a tribute to the sacrifices made by Airmen in Korea.

"I think it's important to remember the Korean War -- for a while it was a forgotten war," said retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Arnold Braswell, Korean War veteran.

Retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Charles Cleveland, also a Korean War ace, said it was wonderful that the parade was highlighting the Air Force and especially the Korean War and that hopefully it wouldn't be forgotten again.

"It was a hugely important war for the country and the Air Force," said Cleveland. He pointed out that it was the first war where the Air Force completely transitioned away from piston engines and started using jet engines.

Also in attendance were retired Air Force Col. Buzz Aldrin, Apollo 11 astronaut and Korean War veteran; Gary Sinise, actor and co-founder of Operation Iraqi Children; and Joe Mantegna, actor and Chairperson for the National Salute to Hospitalized Veterans.

The parade also included nearly 200 other elements, including marching bands, active duty and retired military units, youth groups, and parade floats and hundreds of veterans from World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm, and Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom.

Other parade highlights include a commemoration of 50th Anniversary of the start of the Vietnam War, continuing commemorations of the 70th and 60th Anniversaries of World War II and the Korean War, and a commemoration of the 200th Anniversary of the War of 1812, featuring sailors from "Old Ironsides," the USS Constitution.

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