Heflebower Funeral and Cremation Services has been honored to perform funeral services at the US Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. We thought it would be interesting to share a bit about the Academy, their chapel and cemetery.
History of the Air Force Academy
The US Air Force Academy is a large part of the Colorado Springs area. The Academy, among other things, houses an award winning chapel and an Air Force cemetery. Established April 1, 1954, the Academy was designed to train Airmen. Building began in the summer of 1955 and President Eisenhower assigned Lt. Gen. Hubert R. Harmon as the inaugural superintendent. It wasn’t until the summer of 1958 that the first group of Academy cadets were moved into the Academy.
In the summer of 1976, with legislation signed by President Ford, women were able, and did, enter the Academy and the first class of women graduated in 1980. Their names are specifically documented in the Mortuary Affairs Office. On April 1, 2004, the US Air Force Academy celebrated its 50th year and was declared a national historic landmark. Since its inception, the Air Force Academy has graduated over 40,000 Air Force officers.
US Air Force Academy Chapel
This beautifully designed building was completed on August 28th, 1959 by architect Walter A. Netsch Jr. The Chapel attracts more than 500,000 visitors every year, including wedding parties, funerals and special events. A unique feature of the chapel is that it was designed to house several worship areas for a variety of faiths. Spirituality is encouraged to build character and leadership, so the chapel is a place for that development.
The chapel houses specific areas for Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Buddhist, Islam, Earth-centered spiritualities and an “All-Faiths” room. Each area has its own entrance to allow multiple services to be conducted without interfering the others. The Protestant Chapel is the largest, seating 1200. It is the most recognized and most photographed as it displays the large tetrahedron structure that gives the chapel its unique look. Gradient stained glass is tucked between the shapes that create a pinnacled ceiling.
The main features of the Jewish synagogue include stained glass panels adorned with Israeli cypress and a Torah scroll found in Poland, saved from the Nazi’s during WWII.
The chapel has evolved to include more spiritual beliefs over the years and honor the diversity of the American people.
US Air Force Academy Cemetery
There are specific eligibility requirements to be buried in the US Air Force Academy. The first requirement is that the deceased was honorably discharged from their service. A full list can be found on the Cemetery website, but includes Air Force Military personnel, USAF cadets and graduates, Academy staff and all medal-of-honor recipients regardless of branch.
In addition to the cemetery, there is a Memorial Wall containing the names of 182 USAF Academy graduates from the classes of 1959 to 2009. The project included extensive cataloguing of over 35,000 pages of information on graduates when no central location of the data existed. Names memorialized include those who served in Vietnam, Desert Storm and those killed in the September 2001 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center.