WASHINGTON – Three stainless steel spires soar hundreds of feet into the air and arc slightly backward, mimicking the “bomb burst” maneuver the Air Force Thunderbirds perform. Embedded in granite beneath the spires is the Air Force star.
Before last Saturday, the Air Force was the only branch of service without a memorial in the Washington area. But now, the Air Force Memorial bursts onto the capital’s skyline with help from Pittsfield-based Cianbro Corp., which constructed the concrete foundation and the mammoth spires.
“We are honored to have the opportunity to memorialize the men and women of the Air Force for their service to our nation,” Peter Vigue, Cianbro’s president, said in a statement. “This magnificent structure is a deserving tribute to their selfless commitment to our country.”
Cianbro is one of the East Coast’s largest civil and heavy industrial construction companies and one of the nation’s most diversified building companies with gross annual sales in excess of $300 million.
It took Cianbro more than a year to construct the spires and lay the foundation, but today, the memorial sits on a promontory above Arlington National Cemetery, overlooking the Pentagon and the Potomac River. It was dedicated on Saturday before a crowd of 30,000, and with President Bush, among others, speaking.
The memorial honors the millions of men and women who have been and will be part of the Air Force, and some 54,000 who were killed in action while serving in the Air Force, whether in the active force, the Air National Guard or the reserves.
The three spires not only represent flight and the flying spirit of the Air Force, but also its stated core values – “integrity first, service before self and excellence in all that is done.”
“We’re very proud to have been able to work on it,” Tim C. Walton, director of external affairs for Cianbro, said. “It was a great project.”
The foundation took five months to set, from April 2005 to September 2005, and includes 3,000 cubic yards of concrete. The construction of the spires took seven months, from February until last month, and uses 500 tons of reinforcing steel and 350 tons of stainless steel. Each spire is a different height, the tallest reaching 270 feet into the air.
Other elements of the memorial include a bronze Honor Guard statue, two granite inscription walls and a contemplation wall. The Honor Guard statue depicts four eight-foot tall airmen, representing men and women who have served, are currently serving, and will serve in the future. The inscription walls are at either end of the central lawn, one honoring the values and accomplishments of the Air Force and the other representing the valor and sacrifices of Air Force members. The inscribed glass contemplation wall is meant to provoke thought and remembrance for those who have died.
“It is a memorial that generations will be able to visit and be proud of,” Walton said. “And certainly we at Cianbro are very proud to have been able to work on a project like that.”