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Spectre Spotlight 2005
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By Senior Airman J.G. Buzanowski
Air Force Print News

WASHINGTON (AFPN) -- Forty years ago, troops in Vietnam were issued rifles, ponchos and helmets. Last weekend, members from the Air Force Sergeants Association were armed with brooms, soap buckets and hoses.

AFSA Members Clean Vietnam Memorial About 140 AFSA volunteers and family members traveled here from six Air Force bases to clean the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

"I've done this six times now and every time it makes me proud," said Tech. Sgt. Kim Browne, who organized the visit. "This year we invited more junior enlisted Airmen from other bases and it's amazing how many of them came with us. For most of them, this was their first time here."

To make the trip to the nation's capital, the Airmen had to pay their own expenses. They came from far away as South Carolina, said Sergeant Browne, who drove with her daughter from Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, N.C.

"This has been an amazing event and totally worth coming here," said Master Sgt. Dave Stinard, AFSA chapter president at Charleston AFB, S.C. Sergeant Stinard and his chapter raised funds to afford the nine-hour drive by doing car washes and bake sales.

"It's a great opportunity for a lot of the Airmen who had never seen the memorial before," he said. "It's also a great way to pay tribute to the heritage of the Air Force."

The experience began early that morning before the usual throngs of tourists arrive to pay their respects. A park ranger met the group and passed out the tools they'd need to wash away the dirt and grime that had built up in the names etched into the memorial.

For military members, cleaning the wall gives them a connection to those who served before them, said Airman 1st Class Jackie VanWagner, which is why she made the drive from Langley AFB, Va.

"They served in every branch of the military, and I'm a part of that, too," she said.

The park staff relies on volunteers to keep the wall clean. Groups usually number between 50 to 70 people, said U.S. Park Service ranger Terry Brown. The Air Force showed up with twice as many.

"It's a real honor to have them here today," he said. "Without them, we wouldn't be able to get this done."

Although they can only make the trip once a year, Sergeant Browne is happy to continue organizing the event and will bring people to wash the wall for as long as she can.

"To come here and do this, our Airmen show a lot of integrity, service before self," she said. "I love getting to do this. We're here to pay our respects to those who served before us. To share the experience with other Airmen, especially our youngest folks, is just amazing."

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