Spires in the Sky

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President Bush today will dedicate a one-of-a-kind monument 15 years in the making -- the Air Force memorial in Washington, D.C.

The powerful Air Force thunderbirds and their precise signature maneuver called "the bomb burst" are the inspiration behind the memorial's unusual spires that peel away into the sky above the nation's capitol.

"As you look at these spires, they point you at the sky which is the Air Force domain," said retired colonel and fighter pilot George Day. "And without air power, no one can function."

Day said seeing his name on the memorial wall for the first time was overwhelming. A medal of honor recipient, he was shot down during the Vietnam War and held as a prisoner of war for nearly six years with now-Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.

"Probably two-thirds of these people have passed on," said Day, pointing to names on the wall of the memorial. "I have some very fond memories of these people."

From the American aces of World War II to the high flyers of today, the memorial that's perched above Arlington National Cemetery honors the millions of men and women who have served in the air force.

Constructing the unusual tribute wasn't easy. Erecting the nearly 300-foot-long spires required cranes, concrete, stainless steel and years of determination.

Air force veteran Ross Perot Jr. said another issue was the lengthy battle with the Marines, who felt the original site was too close to the iconic Iwo Jima statue.

"Looking back on it, it's all worked out for the best -- because we have a better site a better design," Perot said. "It just took a little time."

Col. Day said a permanent reminder of the service and sacrifices of the men and women of the Air Force blue was long overdue.

"It's one of those things that makes you really proud and it elevates the patriotism in your heart," Day said.

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