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Airmen in Afghanistan Honor Veterans With Silent Vigil

By Capt. Michael Meridith, USAF
Special to American Forces Press Service

BAGRAM AIR BASE, Afghanistan, Nov. 11, 2007 – Airmen here honored veterans past and present with a 10-hour silent vigil today.

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Senior Airman Michael Salansky, a member of the 455th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron, stands a silent vigil in Afghanistan in honor of Veterans Day on Nov. 11, 2007. Photo by Capt. Michael Meridith, USAF

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Following a formal wreath-laying ceremony, teams of two airmen -- a total of 80 in all -- stood at “parade rest” near the flagpole of Camp Cunningham here as a constant reminder of the significance of Veterans Day.

The vigil took place in the shadow of a picture and monument to Senior Airman Jason Cunningham, the fallen pararescueman who is the camp’s namesake. Cunningham gave his life saving fellow servicemembers during combat in Afghanistan in 2002.

“It took me full circle,” said Air Force Staff Sgt. San Juana Vasquez, with 455th Expeditionary Mission Support Squadron. Vasquez, a San Antonio native who was involved in setting up the vigil and who also served on the Air Force Honor Guard detail that provided honors during Cunningham’s burial. “Sometimes back home Veterans Day can seem like just a day off, but here it means more because you live it every day.”

The vigil was even more significant because it came shortly after the announcement of the deaths of several servicemembers serving in Afghanistan.

“I feel pride at being able to honor those who gave their lives for our freedom,” said Senior Airman Michael Salansky, of the 455th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron, a Uniondale, Pa., native who participated in the vigil. “When I stand out there, I think about everyone deployed out here putting themselves on the line.”

Those sentiments were echoed by Air Force Master Sgt. Richard Tallman, the 455th Expeditionary Mission Support Group first sergeant and a Council Bluffs, Iowa, native. Tallman organized the event.

“Those who have served and those who are now serving should have a sense of pride that their efforts will not be forgotten,” he said. “No matter how small they think their role is, every person is a key to making the mission happen.”

(Air Force Capt. Michael Meridith is assigned to 455th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs.)

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