Class of '67 reunion gifts honor Long Blue Line

When the carillon bells chime above the Air Force Academy Cemetery, it’s a solemn salute to a life remembered. A flowing American flag towers above the pine-rimmed fields where wreaths and flowers adorn the graves of Air Force Academy cadets, graduates and others who qualify for burial there.

Over the years, graduating classes have supported major cemetery enhancement projects like the bell tower and memorial pavilion. The Class of 1967, which celebrated its 50th reunion in 2017, has long included the cemetery as a class giving priority.

“The Class of ’67 believes in USAFA's three core principles: Integrity, Service and Excellence,” explains class representative Brig. Gen. (Ret.) Roger Carleton. “These values, along with our interest as one of the Academy’s earlier classes, inspired us to support upgrades to USAFA's cemetery.”

When the cemetery’s American Legion Memorial tower was completed in 1981, it did not include the 25 brass carillon bells that adorn it today. The Class of ’67 identified the need and launched an aggressive fundraising campaign as part of its 40th reunion project, raising more than $295,000 to help purchase the bells and re-engineer the tower to accommodate an additional 3,800 pounds of weight.

Coinciding with the class’s 45th reunion, the installation of the carillon bells was completed and officially received by the Academy in 2012.

The Class of ’67 quickly regrouped and launched a new fundraising campaign targeting its 50th reunion in 2017. Once again, cemetery upgrades were included, along with support for the Center for Character and Leadership Development, the POW Memorial and support for the Legacy Class program.

Gifts from Academy graduates and friends have long paved the way for cemetery improvements. The $4.5 million Memorial Pavilion, the American Legion Memorial tower and the carillon bells top the list of many enhancements that were paid for through private philanthropy.

The latest cemetery upgrades include enhancements and maintenance for the cemetery pavilion, visitor kiosk and the carillon bells. The pavilion is being fitted with remote-controlled blinds to block the late afternoon sun. New speakers and an expanded selection of music were added, along with a Wi-Fi system that allows the chimes to be controlled remotely using a smartphone.

“The impact of generous graduates is long lasting and has a positive effect on every family that attends a funeral service held at the Air Force Academy Cemetery,” says Mortuary Officer Janet Edwards. “From the wireless sound system in the Memorial Pavilion that was donated by the Class of 1959 to the large touch screen TV in the directory building to the initial installation of the carillon bells and subsequent upgrade, we are most grateful for graduates who are thoughtful and generous for others to benefit.”

The cemetery is sure to be a top candidate for inclusion in the Class of ’67’s fundraising plans for its 55th reunion in 2022.

“The Class of 1967 undertook this range of special cemetery projects to benefit the entire Academy community,” Carleton says. “It is our belief that these upgrades contribute to a sacred, respectful and lasting tribute to all those who are now, or will in the future, be interred or inurned at the Air Force Academy Cemetery.”

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