There was no flyover to represent the United States Air Force at this year's Memorial Day service in Shotwell Memorial Park, but 174th Fighter Wing Commander Col. Kevin Bradley's presence remained strong.
"Although for many years I enjoyed a different view of this sound but appropriate marking here, I would tell you that today I would gladly trade my cockpit to be here with all of you," Bradley said from the podium.
Bradley directed his remarks to gold star mothers, clergy and distinguished guests, members of American Legion Post 239, fellow veterans and citizens.
"It is my distinct honor to speak to you today as we pay tribute to those who are the cost of our nation that have fallen, or have been wounded, in the events of our freedoms," he said. "Let us not forget that at this moment, we are still a nation at war, and tragically, more than 5,000 young men and women have given their lives to the highest cost of those freedoms."
Bradley spoke of every service member's loss of life as "not only a loss to our nation, but more importantly, a loss to their family. We can never erase that pain, but we can certainly talk about our heroes, and keep the truest meaning of a Memorial Day alive."
In keeping the meaning alive, he continued with a story about a brave American, Major Troy Gilbert. Bradley served with Gilbert in Iraq in 2007.
"Little did I know then that this father of five would soon be defined by his service before self," Bradley said.
Gilbert was piloting an F-16 on a "clear, and up until that point, uneventful day in Iraq," Bradley said. "But all that changed when I got a call on the radio for him to proceed to an urgent troops in contact, a situation that was developing about 25 miles north of Baghdad.