Air Force leaders issue Memorial Day message Published May 24, 2012 WASHINGTON (AFNS) -- Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz send the following Memorial Day message to the Airmen of the U.S. Air Force and their families: On May 30, 1868, the first official Memorial Day observance was held at Arlington National Cemetery to honor over 20,000 soldiers of the Civil War. Today, Memorial Day serves as an opportunity to pause and remember the sacrifices of more than one million Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen who have given their lives to secure our freedoms. As we remember our fallen, captured, or missing service men and women, we also express our deep gratitude to those who are currently defending our Nation. Today, more than 33,000 Airmen are deployed around the world, while over 134,000 provide global support from their home station. Among our all-volunteer force, 68 percent of Airmen joined the Air Force after 9/11, and have never known a peacetime military. The men and women who answered the call by saying, "Send me," truly exemplify Service before Self. In addition to recognizing the service of our fellow Airmen, we also pay tribute to the families of those who have fallen or who have been wounded while serving our country. For these families--the husbands and wives, sons and daughters, mothers and fathers--every day is Memorial Day. We will not forget those whom our fallen, captured, or missing service men and women left behind, and to whom our debt of gratitude can never be repaid. On this day of remembrance, as we honor those who have given "their last full measure of devotion" in service to our Nation, let us renew our commitment to military family survivors, as well as to our wounded warriors and their families. To all Airmen, whether serving at home or abroad, please know your sacrifices do not go unnoticed. We are grateful for your service and are privileged to stand with you, by you, and for you.