News: Honoring those who serve
Story by Jo Adail Stephenson
ARLINGTON, Va. - Standing on a promontory looking past the shiny stainless steel arcs of the three spires of the Air Force Memorial, you can see the gently rolling hills of the hallowed grounds of Arlington National Cemetery. For Air Force Col. Scott MacKenzie and his wife Suzette, the sites hold special meaning. These are visible reminders of the patriotism and sacrifice of the men and women of this country to secure and sustain our freedoms.
MacKenzie, Air Force Portfolio Division director, Defense Contract Management Agency Portfolio Management and Integration, chose to have his recent promotion ceremony at the Air Force Memorial.
“Having the ceremony there was special because of what the memorial symbolizes. It is the visible link connecting past, present and future generations of airmen,” said MacKenzie, who has served in a number of agency positions – DCMA Pacific commander’s action group chief, DCMA Pratt & Whitney commander and DCMA Afghanistan deputy commander.
In front and center of the memorial’s three spires, MacKenzie reaffirmed his oath of office, the words exemplifying the commitment made by military service members throughout the nation’s history to support and defend the Constitution.
“I was honored and humbled to be able to take the oath of office at the memorial, which honors all the men and women who served, and continue to serve, the U.S. Air Force and its heritage organizations,” said MacKenzie, who has 21 years in uniform. “It is a poignant reminder of why I serve.”
Alongside her husband at his promotion ceremony, Suzette could see Arlington National Cemetery where, as an Arlington Lady, she volunteers to attend the services in support of Air Force families and their loved ones.
Since the fall of 2012, she has attended more than 40 services for Air Force active duty and retired service members interred at Arlington.
“My name is Suzette MacKenzie and I am an Arlington Lady. These are the first words I say to the family as I present a card to them at their loved one’s funeral,” she said.
It’s not just any card, but one from the Air Force Chief of Staff bearing his signature and words of comfort. The card is given to the family after they hear the gun salute and taps and watch the flag folded, inspected and handed to them.
“On bended knee, I look them in the eye and tell them their Air Force hero is among many heroes now,” she said. “I believe it is a great honor to be with them at that time, to render honors and respect their loved one, and give them comfort knowing the Air Force family is there for them and appreciates the sacrifices that both the service member and the family have made to protect our precious freedoms.”
What surprises her most is the number of times the families thank her.
“It reminds me how gracious people can be even during difficult times,” she said. “I always write a personal note to the family and tell them what an honor it was to attend the service.
She also includes her contact information so the family can contact her. She has attended a few funerals where she was the only non-military person present because the family was unable to attend.
“I take pictures of both the site and the surrounding area so the family can see the beautiful place where their loved one is located,” she said. “I also describe the day to them so they can feel like they were there. It is a way to give back to the community and provide a little comfort to our Air Force families. I keep doing it because it is a great honor."