AF recognizes a lifetime of service

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Torri Ingalsbe
  • Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs Command Information
Air Force Assistant Vice Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Stephen L. Hoog presented the Air Force Exceptional Service Award to retired Col. Arnald D. Gabriel during an Air Force Symphony performance at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, May 24.

“We are going to give him what we call the Air Force Exceptional Service Award,” Hoog said. “This is only given to those people who demonstrate exceptional patriotism and service in a civilian capacity.”

Gabriel began his career in 1943 as an Army machine gunner. He later separated from the Army and pursued higher education degrees in music education. Gabriel reentered active-duty military service as an Air Force band conductor. After retiring from the Air Force in 1985, he continued his passion for music and mentoring at George Mason University for 10 years. In 1990, Gabriel began serving as the Conductor Emeritus for the Air Force Band and conducted more than 2,000 concerts with global audiences in 22 years.

“What an absolutely incredible day, in an incredible venue, with incredible music,” Hoog said. “I couldn’t help but feel the chills in some of the earlier performances.”

Hoog said he was also in awe as he watched Gabriel conduct a song dedicated to the men he fought side-by-side with on D-Day.

The award came as a surprise to Gabriel.

“To say I’m surprised is an understatement; shocked is better,” Gabriel said. “I am truly honored.

“I never thought I’d live to be 90, but then there were days I didn’t think I would live 10 minutes longer,” Gabriel said.

Even after 72 years of service, Gabriel continues to serve and support service members from all branches of the military, and shares his love of music with everyone he meets.