News: K.I.A. WWII Airmen among the honored at Remembrance Day ceremony
MARTLESHAM HEATH, England - More than 200 military and civilian personnel attended a Remembrance Day ceremony in Barrack Square at Martlesham Heath Nov. 11, 2012 honoring those who have fallen in previous conflicts.
Specifically honored was U.S. Army pilot 2nd Lt. James Des Jardins and the other 71 American Airmen of the 356th fighter group that lost their lives during World War II.
The ceremony was hosted by the Martlesham Heath Aviation Society and featured presentations from the RAF Lakenheath Honor Guard and other organizations, guest speakers from RAFs Mildenhall and Lakenheath, a two-minute moment of silence and the laying of wreaths.
“I am humbled to lay a wreath on behalf of the sacrifices of American Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen, and especially the Airmen of the allied bomber command,” said Col. Mark Ciero, RAF Lakenheath vice commander and a speaker at the event. “I will lay that wreath at the foot of the British memorial, because in life or death we remain brothers in arms.”
Making this event more poignant was the recent return of the remains of 2nd Lt. James Des Jardins, who was labeled missing in action after flying out of Royal Air Force Station Martlesham Heath Nov. 25, 1944 in support of a bombing raid in central Germany. It was a mission that took nearly 68 years to return home from.
Upon Des Jardins’ return, flags flew at half-staff across Wisconsin, where he was laid to rest with full military honors in his hometown of Green Bay, Wis., Oct. 14, 2012.
“It’s a remarkable story that has come full circle,” said Martyn Cook, Parade Marshall and Chairman of the MHAS. “Unfortunately, some never found their way back home; luckily James Des Jardins has after 68 years.”
Although Des Jardins and the other 71 Airmen of the 356th Fighter Group who lost their lives were highlighted, they were not the only ones honored at the ceremony.
“We stand here today to show our mutual respect for the United Kingdom and the United States of America, which is fitting and appropriate given the long standing and enduring nature of the partnership of our countries for almost 100 years,” said Royal Air Force Wing Commander Phil Nicholson, RAF MiIdenhall Liaison Officer. “Britain and America have stood shoulder to shoulder to protect democracy…”
According to Ciero, events like these are important as they honor service members from the past, and also ensure people do not forget freedom’s costs.
“Today, almost one century later, we pause to lay wreaths of poppies, yet we also pause to grab the tourch of enlightenment to shine into our future.”