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AFSA is proud to maintain the memorial plaques in the Department of State's C Street lobby, which honor our colleagues who have given their lives in the line of duty.
The first memorial plaque, now at the west end of the diplomatic lobby of the Department of State, was unveiled on March 3, 1933 by Secretary of State Henry Stimson at the entrance of what is now the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, standing next to the White House, which then housed the State, War and Navy Departments. The inscription on this plaque states: "Erected by members of the American Foreign Service Association in honor of diplomatic and consular officers of the United States who while on active duty lost their lives under heroic or tragic circumstances." The establishment of this plaque grew out of AFSA’s efforts starting in the late 1920s to establish a "Roll of Honor" of colleagues who had died in the line of duty while serving overseas, including due to violence, natural disasters, tropical diseases, and accidents during official travel. The first name is that of William Palfrey, chosen by the Continental Congress as Consul General to France, who set sail in 1780 and was never heard from again.
The first plaque honored early diplomatic and consular officers and, starting with the founding of the Foreign Service in 1924, Foreign Service officers. After World War II the plaque became open to Foreign Service personnel of all ranks. The second plaque erected in 1972 at the east end of the lobby, during the Vietnam War, carried a new inscription: "Erected by the American Foreign Service Association in honor of those Americans who have lost their lives abroad under heroic or other inspirational circumstances while serving the country abroad in foreign affairs." This phrase was interpreted to comprehend the distinctive dangers, including terrorist acts, of life and work in the Foreign Service. In 1982, eligibility was extended to include U.S. Government employees of other agencies serving at embassies. However, in 2006, due to the sharp increase in the number of non-Foreign Service civilians serving abroad from agencies that have their own memorials to fallen employees, the AFSA Governing Board re-instituted the original plaque criteria. Inscription is now limited to Foreign Service members. Nine non-AFSA sponsored plaques in the C Street lobby honor other employee groups, including Foreign Service National employees who died in the line of duty.
In 2019 and 2020, after a 12-year research effort, the AFSA Governing Board approved the inscription of 67 additional names of colleagues dating back to 1794 whose deaths in the line of duty were previously overlooked. To accommodate those names and provide space for future inscriptions, in May 2021 AFSA installed four re-inscribed panels beside the original two wall plaques and placed six new panels on lobby columns. For a detailed history of AFSA's memorial plaques, click here.
Each May, AFSA organizes a memorial plaque ceremony in cooperation with the Department of State where the names of newly fallen colleagues are unveiled, or existing names are commemorated. As of May 2021, there are 321 names inscribed on the plaques. Click here to view details of their service to our nation. As further research uncovers additional cases of early colleagues who died in circumstances distinctive to overseas service, they are being memorialized on a Virtual AFSA Memorial Plaque.
AFSA owns and maintains the plaques, as authorized by a joint resolution of Congress in 1933. The AFSA Awards and Plaque Committee considers proposals for additional names and makes recommendations to the AFSA Governing Board which selects the names for inscription, based on the criteria established by the Governing Board. Please click here to view the criteria. If you wish to submit a name for consideration, please fill out this form.