General Daniel Woodward in dress blues in front of American Flag

General Salutes the Past, Prepares Future Leaders

Brig. General Daniel Woodward (’80), USAF (Ret.) leads the effort to maintain and promote America’s overseas commemorative cemeteries and memorials.

As he visited the Somme on Veteran’s Day, the general wore the wings of an airman who flew over the site of the World War I battle on November 11, 1918. Brig. General Daniel Woodward, USAF (Ret.) was no tourist. By presidential appointment, Woodward (’80) is the vice chairman of the American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC). Eleven commissioners work as advisory partners to a staff of more than 400.

The wings were originally worn by his wife’s grandfather. Woodward also wore them during his visit to the Lafayette Escadrille Memorial Cemetery, the resting place of America’s first combat aviators. His work has also taken him to Ardennes and Cambridge American Cemeteries, the final resting places of more than 6,000 fallen airmen. 

His small personal tribute reflects his greater commitment to maintain and promote America’s overseas commemorative cemeteries and memorials. Woodward believes these sites are powerful points of connection between America and other countries — and between generations. He sees it as a great privilege to help the commission deliver on its motto: “Time will not dim the glory of their deeds.”

“These sites are beacons of service, sacrifice and American commitment,” he says. “This is a solemn responsibility of America. We have an obligation that extends beyond our borders because of the kind of nation we are, and we need to make sure that obligation is met.”

Woodward has witnessed the power of such places firsthand, hearing French-speaking Belgian school children at Henri-Chapelle Cemetery singing our national anthem in English. 

A Memorial Day visit to Brookwood Military Cemetery also drove home the shared sacrifices of allied forces. Brookwood is the largest Commonwealth war cemetery in the United Kingdom.

“It is an American cemetery owned by the commission, but there are graves from different nationalities, all branches of the service and those who fought in both World Wars I and II,” he explains. “The history these places represent is world history.”

Cambridge American Battle Cemetery, also in the U.K., is an example of a site that makes a deep impression through its natural and manmade beauty — and the story of service and sacrifice it tells.

“Every one of our cemeteries has a reception center that provides context,” he says. “A great example is Cambridge, with 5,000 graves and more than 5,000 names on the Wall of the Missing. A reflecting pool runs all the way down to a magnificent chapel. Along its walls and ceiling are depictions of missions that were flown, so you can follow an air battle that launched from England and went to France and ultimately deep into Germany.”

Although new monuments commemorating the Cold War and Vietnam War have been considered, the ABMC has decided it is a better use of tax dollars to focus on protecting existing monuments at risk. Woodward cites Pointe du Hoc, the cliff overlooking the English Channel that U.S. Army Rangers scaled on D-Day, as worthy of preservation. It is also in the works for Belgium to turn over a Battle of the Bulge Monument (formerly known as the Mardassan Memorial) to the commission.

The ABMC is more than a landlord for these sites. Providing education is central to its mission and important to Woodward. The staff prioritized writing op-eds, speaking and producing educational videos during 2023 as part of its 100th anniversary. Woodward and his fellow commissioners see education as a critical investment in preservation.

“It is important to go beyond just informing the public,” he says. “We need to educate the public, and that takes time and resources. As the World War II generation fades away, we have an obligation to make sure that younger Americans remember them and carry that torch forward for future generations as well.” 

For example, a nonprofit Woodward serves, Arnold Air Society and Silver Wings, worked with the ABMC to send two students to Normandy to support Memorial Day ceremonies. “These fellowships created lifelong memories for these students, no question.”

The Launch of Two Generals

Woodward’s own lifelong memories extend to the Daytona Beach Campus. He was licensed to fly before he was licensed to drive. His father, a defense contractor, knew Embry-Riddle by reputation. It was the right fit.

“Embry-Riddle gave me the education that changed my life,” he says. “I launched my career through the ROTC detachment, which was, and still is, outstanding.” 

In his honor, Arnold Air Society Detachment 157 on the Daytona Beach Campus is home to the Brig. General Daniel P. Woodward Squadron.

His years at Embry-Riddle also brought another major life enhancement. Through the Arnold Air Society, he met fellow flier, Margaret (’97), who became his wife and is now a retired two-star general. 

“Our life together started at Embry-Riddle. We have flown formation together, done inflight refueling together, visited 80 countries on military orders and lived history together for decades,” he explains. “Embry-Riddle started all that for us, and we just celebrated 43 years of marriage!”

Following his service in the Air Force, Woodward became executive director of Arnold Air Society and Silver Wings, which he views as a tremendous honor.

“I work with the next generation of airmen and civilians who are interested in air power, [and] foreign and domestic policy affecting the military,” he says. “And [I also work with] students who will lead in government, the military and industry once they graduate. They affirm for me every day that our future is in great hands.”

Lessons in Leadership

Just as his work with the ABMC aims to pass along the lessons of history, his work with the Arnold Society and Silver Wings passes along personal lessons learned by established leaders.

“If we can bring our experiences to 20-year-olds and spare them battle scars, they will graduate much more able to meet the challenges they will face,” he says.

Silver Wings, which is 51% civilian, develops non-military leaders side-by-side with cadets.  Woodward feels it is important for both groups to understand and appreciate each other.

“The U.S. military could not survive without great civilians. There are 100,000 civilians in the U.S. Air Force, and without them, we would be a shell.”

Silver Wings also turns civilians into effective and informed advocates for national defense programs.

“Nobody expects a 22-year-old civilian to advocate for the F-35 or B-21 programs or new unmanned aerial vehicles,” he explains. “People expect that from me, but it has a different level of credibility and power from a college student really engaged in the future of these programs.”

As he moves forward, Brig. General Daniel Woodward’s mission remains clear: honor those who have served, educate the next generation about their sacrifices and continue building a foundation of leadership and understanding that will serve America well into the future. Embry-Riddle started that mission, and it remains his passion today.