JOINT BASE LANGLEY-EUSTIS, Va. --
The 94th Fighter Squadron flew over the unveiling of the National World War I Memorial during the First Colors Ceremony in Washington D.C. April 16, 2021.
“Every other major war of the 20th century is honored with a memorial here in our nation’s capital except for WWI,” said Meredith Carr, WWI Centennial Commission deputy director. “We are not a country that forgets – we don’t forget our heroes or our fallen. It was so important to construct this [memorial] to speak for those who no longer have a voice.”
The significance of the memorial and the sacrifices made by those who served required an equally impactful performance of homage. Due to its profound legacy of involvement during WWI, the 94th Fighter Squadron was the obvious choice for the job.
“The men and women of the 94th FS, known as the “Spads” and the “Hat in the Ring Gang,” are incredibly honored to be able to participate in the First Colors Ceremony at the new National World War I Memorial in Washington, D.C.,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Jonathan Kuntz, 94th Fighter Squadron commander. “As proud as we are of the 94th Aero Squadron, we know their contributions were just a small part of the overall American and Allied war effort, both on the front lines and at home. We will never forget their sacrifice, and we remain forever grateful for it.”
The 94th FS traces its squadron lineage back to the beginning of American combat aviation with the 94th Aero Squadron’s Nieuport 28s during WWI. The unit was the first American-trained pursuit squadron to see combat service and achieve an aerial victory – the 94th commemorated their legacy with an insignia representative of their historical significance of being the first to “throw their hat in the ring.”
The insignia of Uncle Sam’s hat inside that fateful red ring lives on 103 years later – a proud symbol that is worn on the 94th pilots’ flight suit to this day.
“The 94th [FS] has a lot of history in WWI, so just being able to help represent that history in the flyover is an awesome opportunity for us,” stated Capt. “Tito” Cook, 94th FS F-22 Raptor pilot, “It also means a lot to our country and those who sacrificed during WWI.”
The American flag that now waves proudly over Washington D.C.’s memorial was flown over many significant sites, indicative of WWI’s global impact, legacy and historical importance.
“[The First Colors Ceremony] was the first time we raised the flag of the United States of America over this new memorial – truly creating a hallowed ground,” explained Carr. “The ceremony followed the journey of a flag, which first flew over the U.S. Capitol on April 6, 2017, marking the centennial of U.S. entry into the war. Then, the flag went to Europe and flew over every major WWI battlefield cemetery in France, Belgium and the U.K. Now the flag has returned home where it will fly over our memorial for the first time.”
The flight of two U.S. Air Force F-22s over the WWI Memorial also demonstrated our continued commitment to our Allies through the inclusion of a U.K. pilot in the formation.
Royal Air Force Squadron Leader Alexander Thorne, 94th FS foreign exchange officer, said, “For me, from the U.K., to be able to perform this flypast is particularly important. I have family members who fought in that war – who died in that war, and when America supported the U.K., you were there on the battlefield with us, so it means a great deal to me to be able to fly alongside my American colleague and to show my respect and show my thanks to your nation.”
The WWI Centennial Commission demonstrated gratitude to the 94th FS for their contribution in honoring the 4.7 million veterans of WWI.
“The fact that we not only had a flyover, but we had a flyover from a legacy squadron – the 94th – is beyond meaningful,” Carr concluded. “Everyone was so excited about that. It was the honor of all of our lives; we are so grateful to you guys. Thank you!”