"The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional to how they perceive veterans of earlier wars were treated and appreciated by our nation."


The Importance of Heritage

Heritage is important in understanding the story of the Air Force Academy– its history, identity, and its graduates. Capturing the heritage of the Air Force Academy is the responsibility of the present generation of graduates.

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Walk the Trail

The Heritage Trail shows the commitment of early Academy classes to preserve the many extraordinary accomplishments of graduates both in and out of the service. Its major purpose is to show future generations of cadets the legacy of those who went before and motivate them to a career of service to the Nation.


The Challenge Bridge along Heritage Trail at Doolittle Hall was dedicated and funded by the Class of 1959. A member of the Academy’s first class—the Class of 1959, meets each cadet during Basic Training and challenges them with the words below which are on plaques on the Challenge Bridge.

The path to which you aspire has been consecrated by the blood of heroes and paved with the selfless service of countless men and women like you.

If you would be worthy of this heritage:

Make integrity the bedrock value of your life.

Let your actions always be guided by an unshakeable sense of duty, self-discipline and personal responsibility.

Become a lifelong student of history, war, humanity and leadership.

Be prepared to sacrifice everything to defend the principles upon which our nation was founded.

Cross this bridge with the determination to live a life that will make all who went before proud of you.


The Distinguished Graduate Award recognizes exceptional graduates who have set themselves apart by making extraordinarily significant contributions to our nation and/or their communities. It is a unique honor bestowed by the U.S. Air Force Academy and the Association of Graduates, recognizing graduates whose accomplishments are inspirational and elevate the reputation and the standing of the U.S. Air Force Academy.

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The Graduate War Memorial stands on the terrazzo on the north end of the Air Gardens and faces the American flag, for which graduates listed on the memorial died. The inscription "In memory of our fellow graduates who have fallen in battle..." is a simple but eloquent statement of criteria for a name to be included on the memorial.

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The Class of 1970 dedicated the SEA Memorial Pavilion at its 40th Reunion to honor all graduates who participated in and those who lost their lives in the war. Key elements of the building include tall blue glass walls bisected by the Pavilion signifying the effect of the war on the “Long Blue Line” of graduates, a long black granite wall reminiscent of the Vietnam Memorial in Washington DC, and granite benches honoring the nine Class of ’70 members KIA in the war.

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This historic project complements the SEA Memorial Pavilion and is located adjacent to the Pavilion. The north wall of the Plaza honors the Academy’s only Medal of Honor recipient – Captain Lance Sijan. The remainder of the Plaza includes an open area for promotions, retirements, cadet classes and small reunion events. Most importantly, it memorializes the significant valor of graduates who earned the Air Force Cross, Silver Star, Purple Heart, and other distinguished combat awards.

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