The United States Air Force Memorial honors all of the men and women who have served and continue to serve in the U.S. Air Force and its heritage organizations. It is located in Arlington, Virginia, on the grounds of Fort Myer, near the Pentagon. The memorial features three spires that range from 201 feet to 270 feet high. These spires are made of stainless steel, and their position arching against the sky is similar to the image of the Air Force Thunderbirds pulling back in their famous “bomb burst” maneuver. The memorial also has a Glass Contemplation Wall, which features inscriptions symbolizing the presence of those who lost their lives serving the Air Force. The U.S. Air Force Memorial receives roughly 200,000 visitors per year.
The Air Force Memorial Foundation was developed in January of 1992 to oversee the creation of a memorial that would honor members of the Air Force, both past and present. After much debate over the proper site for the memorial, three acres of the Naval Annex were set aside for it in 2001. The memorial was the last project of famous American architect James Ingo Freed, known for his work on the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. The memorial broke ground in 2004 with construction beginning in 2006 and lasting just seven months. Dedication of the memorial was held on October 14, 2006.
The U.S. Air Force Memorial is free and open to the public every day of the year except for Christmas day. From April 1-Sept. 30, the memorial’s hours are 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. From Oct. 1-March 31, its hours are 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. The Administrative Office & gift shop are open Monday-Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The memorial also plays hosts to numerous events throughout the year, including Air Force Band Concerts that are held every Friday from June through August.
The most convenient way to reach the Air Force Memorial is by public transportation. Both the Pentagon City and Pentagon Metrorail stations, on the Blue and Yellow lines, are just a mile walk from the memorial. Buses also frequently stop at the Navy Annex, which is just a mile west of the memorial. Parking is very limited near the memorial, but handicapped spots are available. If traveling by car from Maryland, take MD-295 heading south. From DC, I-395 South can be used. If approaching the memorial from the south, use I-395 North.
The memorial is located at the intersection of Columbia Pike and South Joyce Street in Arlington, VA, in very close proximity to other notable sites such as the Pentagon and Pentagon Memorial, Arlington National Cemetery and the Marine Corps War Memorial (also known as the Iwo Jima Memorial). A short drive or Metro ride from the memorial takes you into the heart of DC and the National Mall, which features prominent memorials such as the Lincoln Memorial, the Jefferson Memorial and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
- Four 8-foot bronze statues are to the south of the memorial, paying homage to the Honor Guard. These statues were designed by sculptor Zenos Frudakis.
- The two inscription walls at the memorial are 56 feet long and 10 feet high.
- The three spires of the memorial signify the three core values of the Air Force, which include integrity first, service before self and excellence in all that is done.
- The arcs of each spire depend on the position of the viewer, as well as weather, season and time of the day.
- The unveiling of the memorial drew roughly 30,000 people in attendance.