Find the fallen: Ellsworth participates in Memorial Day

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Nicolas Z. Erwin
  • 28th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
Airmen from the 28th Bomb Wing helped families locate their loved ones at the Black Hills National Cemetery near Sturgis, over the Memorial Day weekend.

Memorial Day is a U.S. federal holiday observed on the last Monday of May as a day of remembrance for the men and women who gave their lives while serving in the U.S. military.

“We are providing volunteers Saturday, Sunday and Monday to assist visitors who are looking for their loved ones out [in the cemetery],” said John Hopple, 28th Maintenance Group unit program manager. “As this is a national cemetery, there could be folks from anywhere in the U.S. out there. Our people are out there to help them.”

Approximately 200 Airmen placed flags on the final resting place of veterans to honor their service and sacrifices, directed thousands of visitors to their fallen loved ones and helped direct traffic during the ceremonies. This is the 11th year Ellsworth has participated in the event.

“This is the most volunteers we’ve ever had,” Hopple said. “The reason we have so many this year is [every time] Airmen come out, it’s such a moving experience that the next year they volunteer again and bring someone with them. Words can’t describe what you feel out there. It’s one of those things you have to experience in person.”

Hopple explained that due to weather, some of the markers people use to locate their loved ones’ gravesites are missing. With 10,000 visitors and more than 23,000 gravesites, Ellsworth Airmen have one goal in mind – assist those looking for their loved ones.

“This event is all about the families out there, and a testament to how many people have given the ultimate sacrifice,” said Airman 1st Class Bryan Webb, a 28th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief. “It’s humbling being out there and seeing families grieve and come together. It means a lot to be able to help them and give respect to them.”

Memorial Day’s original purpose was to decorate the graves of service members who died in defense of the U.S. during the American Civil War. This still occurs, but the focus is directed to having people understand military conflicts, along with the sacrifices and successes experienced throughout the multiple generations of service members.