The Last Full Measure of Devotion

  • Published
  • By Brig. Gen. Richard Devereaux
  • 82nd Training Wing commander
This Memorial Day weekend we will all get a well-deserved three 3 days off--3 days to rest, relax, and share time with family and friends. 

And although we'll enjoy the fun and time off that comes with the traditional commencement of Summer, that's not what Memorial Day is really all about. Memorial Day is ultimately about paying tribute, paying tribute to the memory of those who gave their "last full measure of devotion," who paid the ultimate sacrifice in defense of our nation and the liberties that we all will enjoy on this 3-day weekend.

Of course, we can all remember past Memorial Days that were rather abstract affairs, devoted to honoring the fallen from bygone wars. Not so today. Unfortunately, this Memorial Day we will honor many, many recent heroes who gave all for their country. And plenty of these heroes are literally very close to home for all of us at Team Sheppard.

In fact, just 3 days ago, 20-year-old Corporal Ryan Collins, from just up the road in Vernon, Texas, died when his unit came under fire while on patrol in Hamiyah, Iraq. Our own Medical Battalion personnel here at Sheppard were involved in notifying his family that their patriotic son was killed while answering the call of the nation he so loved.

Today, we are flying our flag at half staff in memory of SSgt John Self, 314 SFS, who was killed in action in Iraq only 9 days ago by a roadside IED. SSgt Self was an AETC SF warrior assigned to Little Rock AFB who was known as a great Airman who loved the Air Force and loved to hunt, fish, and play computer games.

And then this week, we continue to honor the memory of another fallen Airman by naming our brand new $25M dormitory "Cunningham Hall" in memory of SrA Jason Cunningham, an Air Force medic who died in Afghanistan on 4 March 2002 during Operation Anaconda. SrA Cunningham was posthumously awarded the Air Force Cross for his heroic actions saving the lives of 10 comrades after being mortally wounded. I invite you all to the ribbon-cutting ceremony tomorrow morning (24 Mar) where we'll be dedicating that new dormitory in memory of that fallen hero, in the presence of the Cunningham family.

As Airman Warriors, we need to remember all our fallen comrades who paid their last full measure.

And as you remember them, remember to keep safe this weekend and all Summer long. Sadly, we'll lose more Americans on our highways this weekend than we will on the battlefields in Iraq and Afghanistan. We've already lost more Airmen in the past 12 months in motorcycle accidents than we have in combat over the same period. Additionally, 17,000 Americans will likely die on our highways this year because they simply failed to buckle their set belts. And about 25,000 Americans die on our highways each year in alcohol-related accidents.

So on this Memorial Day weekend, don't squander the freedom that your fallen comrades died to preserve by acting recklessly. Safely operate that motorcycle, buckle those seat belts, and don't drink and drive. Honor those who gave their "last full measure of devotion" by acting safely and responsibly with your own "full measure of devotion."

Thanks Team Sheppard for all you do and have a great Memorial Day weekend!