PARIS, France — A congressional delegation of six senators and Secretary of the Air Force Michael B. Donley arrived in Paris June 13, 2009, to partake in a wreath laying ceremony at the Memorial de l'Escadrille Lafayette, in Marnes-la-Coquette, just outside Paris, France. They are also here to show their support for the Paris Air Show.
The members of the congressional delegation were Senators Daniel K. Inouye of Hawaii, Thad Cochran of Mississippi, Byron L. Dorgan of North Dakota, Tom Harkin of Iowa, James M. Inhofe of Oklahoma and Richard Shelby of Alabama.
The wreath laying ceremony, hosted by Aerospace Industries Association, pays homage to the American ace pilots known as the "Lafayette Escadrille." They were American volunteers who flew and under the French flag during World War I.
"It was a great day for the heritage of our Air Force," said Maj. Gen. William A. Chambers, vice commander, U.S. Air Forces in Europe. "The Lafayette Escadrille Memorial Foundation was honored to host six U.S. senators and industry who are here for the Paris Air Show. They all convened here in a place that represents our beginnings. The great support from the senators keeps the memorial going."
For the dignitaries and the event hosts, the memorial ceremony acts as a precursor to the annual Paris Air Show. The day after the ceremony, the congressional delegation came to Le Bourget Airport where the air show is held. They toured and met with the pilots and the maintainers from different branches of the Armed Forces that proudly brought and spruced up their unit's military aircraft for air show display.
U.S. fighters, rescue helicopters, airborne early warning aircraft, patriot missiles, mobility cargo planes, unmanned reconnaissance vehicles all were brought in to France for thousands of eager spectators when the event opens to the public June 19-21.
Senator Inouye, a World War II veteran and a Congressional Medal of Honor recipient, is a wounded war hero who at the age of 86, walked through each aircraft display and praised the men and women who represented their exhibit and said the wreath memorial and the air show are "both important events that strengthen relations between the United States, the French and our allies."