Robins Air Force Base’s memorial wall that honors fallen team members is moving to a more public location.
For 40 years the base has annually recognized military and civilian employees who have died in the past year. Their names are added to a memorial wall at Camellia Gardens on the base.
In the past, the annual ceremony to add names to the memorial has been held at the gardens, but to make it easier for families without base access, the ceremony was held at the Museum of Aviation on Thursday. Several hundred people attended.
Col. Jeff King, installation commander at Robins, told the audience that next year he hopes the ceremony will take one step further. He said plans are underway for a new memorial to replace the Camellia Gardens wall, which is said to be showing its age. The new memorial will be placed at the front of the museum grounds and will include all of the names currently on it.
“Honor and respect cannot and should not be limited to a few just one day a year, but should be opened wide for all to pay tribute to those who have served our nation,” he said.
King said the plan also includes moving the POW/MIA and Purple Heart memorials to the same area, as well as putting an airplane on a pedestal there.
The base will be reaching out to the community to assist with financing the project, he said.
Thursday’s ceremony added the names of 76 people to the wall. Among them was Bobby Champion of Kathleen, who died Feb. 28 of cancer. His widow, Susan Champion, was wiping away tears during the ceremony.
She said her husband worked as a civilian contractor on base and previously served in the Air Force for 24 years. Although as his widow she has base access, she said moving the memorial to the museum is a good idea.
“I can go see it where it is, but there are a lot of people that can’t,” she said.
The ceremony included reading the names of the 76 people to be added to the memorial, with a bell chiming for each name.
The keynote speaker was Centerville Mayor John Harley, an Air Force veteran who served as inspector general at Robins. He said he spent time earlier this week looking at the memorial and recognized several of the names.
“Each name I see brings back memories of those people,” he said. “That’s the purpose for it. It keeps those memories with us. We see those names, and we remember those people.”