DM-50 hosts 3rd annual Armed Forces Day dinner

Members of the Davis-Monthan Air Force Base Honor Guard perform a flag-folding ceremony during the Armed Forces Day Dinner hosted by the DM-50 here May 18. The flag was later presented to Blake Down, a founding DM-50 member and World War II veteran. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Noah Johnson)

Members of the Davis-Monthan Air Force Base Honor Guard perform a flag-folding ceremony during the Armed Forces Day Dinner hosted by the DM-50 here May 18. The flag was later presented to Blake Down, a founding DM-50 member and World War II veteran. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Noah Johnson)

Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, U.S. representative for District 8 in Arizona, speaks at the Armed Forces Day Dinner at the 79th Hangar here May 18. She thanked those who serve in the military and said "it's incumbent upon us to serve you, too." (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Noah Johnson)

Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, U.S. representative for District 8 in Arizona, speaks at the Armed Forces Day Dinner at the 79th Hangar here May 18. She thanked those who serve in the military and said "it's incumbent upon us to serve you, too." (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Noah Johnson)

DAVIS-MONTHAN AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. -- The DM-50, a Tucson community organization dedicated to promoting the base, hosted the third annual Armed Forces Day Dinner at the 79th Hangar here May 18.

With cooperation from base leadership, the DM-50 organizes and caters the yearly event to show its support for military members, especially those stationed in southern Arizona.

Servicemembers from units all around Davis-Monthan attended the event, along with local business men and women. The Fort Huachuca band played music throughout the evening.

Attendees included Arizona legislators Jonathan L. Paton, District 30's state representative, and Gabrielle Giffords, District 8's U.S. representative. Col. Kent Laughbaum, commander of the 355th Fighter Wing here, and Bruce Dusenberry, president of the DM-50, delivered post-dinner remarks.

Rep. Paton also happens to be a first lieutenant in the Army Reserves, and he recently returned from a tour of duty in Iraq. As the guest speaker for the event, he explained his renewed appreciation for the Air Force's role in joint operations.

"Growing up (in Tucson), I'd often hear the sound of Air Force jets overhead," he said. "Every single time my unit (in Iraq) received indirect fire, we'd call in for close air support, and it was the Air Force that came. To me, that sound meant that something bad was going to happen to those who were trying to hurt my fellow Soldiers. 

"I want to thank the Airmen who are here tonight - and around the world - because you are responsible for keeping me and my fellow Soldiers safe."

The D-M honor guard followed Representative Paton's comments with a flag-folding ceremony. In a surprise gesture on behalf of the 355th FW, the American flag was then presented to Blake Down, a founding member of the DM-50 and a veteran of World War II. Colonel Laughbaum said it was "right and fitting" that Mr. Down was recognized for his service to his country, along with his contributions to the DM-50.

Mr. Down stood, expressed his thanks, and quickly turned the focus back on those who are currently serving in the military. "Whether it's Airmen, Marines, Soldiers or (other servicemembers), tonight we should all appreciate them and what they're doing for us," he said.

Rep. Giffords then took the podium. "Rest assured that within the halls of Congress, there's a tremendous amount of support for our men and women in uniform," she said. "Not every man and woman chooses to put on the uniform. Not every family chooses to endure the long and often painful deployments. But for those who do, thank you for serving, and I think it's incumbent upon us to serve you, too."

Representative Giffords also said that southern Arizona military installations need a continued commitment from community leaders in order to remain strong. Colonel Laughbaum then took the stage and expressed his gratitude for the "special" 80-year relationship between Tucson and Davis-Monthan Air Force Base.

Mr. Dusenberry's closing statements indicated that, as far as the DM-50 is concerned, that relationship will continue.

"We love you, we will always support you, and thank you for all you do," he said.