DAF leadership honors EOD memorial in 55th year

  • Published
  • By Samuel King Jr.

Dressed in the bright whites, deep blues and dense blacks of their service uniforms, Airmen, Marines, Sailors and Soldiers returned this year to honor and remember their fallen explosive ordnance disposal brethren May 4.

The annual memorial ceremony, in its 55th year, took place at the Kauffman EOD Training Complex at Eglin AFB.

The schoolhouse’s commandant, Navy Capt. Steven Beall, welcomed guests and explained why they return to the memorial on the first Saturday of May each year. This specific Saturday is designated National EOD Day. 

“We’ve been guided here from different places, different generations and services, united in purpose, driven by conviction and a promise that we remember,” Beall said. “We will never forget those who gone before us. We will never forget their bravery, courage and sacrifice.” 

The significance of the Memorial brought the Department of the Air Force’s top leadership to the event. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David W. Allvin and Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force David Flosi were in attendance. Allvin was the keynote speaker.

Moved by the reverence of the ceremony, Allvin said instead of delivering his planned speech, he’d rather speak from the heart about the honor he felt to be there.

Allvin said he didn’t feel right sitting in the ceremony’s place of honor but would rather be among those currently wearing the EOD badge and hearing their stories. He also said he’d rather be among the gold star families and understand the hardships that came with their loss. 

“You have a wound that never really heals. Every first Saturday in May it opens up again,” said the general. “You may dread this, but you do it because it's a commitment to the memory and honor of those whose names are on this wall.” 

Allvin continued saying even if he’d attended the ceremony and sat by himself, he would not have felt alone. He said there’s a shared experience among those in attendance of reverence, honor, commitment and selfless service.

“I could be sitting anywhere, and I’d have the same sense of gratitude, respect, and absolute admiration for those in the EOD profession,” Allvin said. “Ceremonies like this remind us we have something in this country worth fighting for and we should recommit ourselves to the effort.

Each service then presented a wreath with the banner “We Remember” in front of their specific memorial as each name is solemnly read aloud. This year, no new names were added to the Memorial Wall. The all-service total stands at 344.

At the ceremony’s conclusion, the area around the Wall got very quiet. The only sounds came from the sandy grit beneath the joint-service color guard’s tapped shoes as they marched toward the Memorial to retire the colors. The next sounds blasted away the quiet as Eglin’s honor guard performed a three-round rifle volley. As the rifle echoes settled and the smell of gun powder filled the air, Taps played to end the ceremony.

Afterward, families and EOD technicians both past and present descended upon the Wall for pictures, to touch the engraved brass name or just remember a fallen hero.