The Foreign Service Journal, March 2024

70 MARCH 2024 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL Honoring Fallen Colleagues The AFSA Memorial Plaques The AFSA Memorial Plaques that grace the walls and columns of the Department of State’s diplomatic entrance originated from a 1929 proposal by an AFSA member whose name was not recorded to create an honor roll memorializing American consular and diplomatic officers who died in circumstances distinctive to overseas service since the founding of the republic. The original plaque, which is now displayed on the west wall of the C Street lobby, was unveiled on March 3, 1933, in the State, War, and Navy Building next to the White House (known today as the Eisenhower Executive Office Building). Made of Virginia greenstone, it was inscribed with 65 names beginning with William Palfrey, elected by the Continental Congress as consul in France, who died in 1780, lost at sea en route to his post. At the unveiling ceremony, Secretary of State Henry L. Stimson stated that the memorial, “should serve as a means of bringing home to the people of this country the fact that we have a Service in our Government devoted to peaceful intercourse between the nations and the assistance of our peaceful commerce which, nevertheless, may occasionally exact from its servants a sacrifice the same as that which we expect from our soldiers and our sailors.” AFSA owns and manages the plaques, as authorized by a 1933 joint resolution of Congress approving their placement on government property. New plaques have been added over the years as earlier plaques filled up. A major expansion in 2021 replaced four panels dating from 1985 with reinscribed versions that added the dates and causes of death and inserted in chronological order the names of 67 early consuls and diplomats whose deaths had been recently discovered by researchers mining online databases. That expansion also placed six new black granite panels on the lobby columns, providing space for the names of 102 future colleagues should the sad toll of Foreign Service deaths continue. Criteria for inscription have varied over the decades, as the AFSA Governing Boards in different eras have wrestled with defining precise interpretations of eligibility. While there is a natural tendency to want to honor all overseas deaths of Foreign Service members including those from natural causes or in circumstances that could have happened domestically, doing so would diminish the emphasis on the distinctive dangers of life and work in the Foreign Service such as terrorism and vehicle accidents during official travel. Moreover, with more than 1,000 recorded overseas deaths of early consuls and diplomats and post-1923 Foreign Service members, there is insufficient space in the C Street lobby to inscribe them all. As of March 2024, 321 names are inscribed on the AFSA Memorial Plaques. Behind each name is the story of a colleague who made the ultimate sacrifice for our nation. The AFSA website ( includes summaries of their service and circumstances of their death. The website also features a virtual plaque where AFSA since 2021 has commemorated fallen colleagues from past decades and centuries as their names are newly discovered by researchers. Memorializing those historical names virtually preserves space on the physical plaques to honor future Foreign Service deaths. In addition to the polished stone AFSA Memorial Plaques, AFSA sponsors five smaller bronze plaques in the C Street lobby. They honor Foreign Service family members who died overseas (co-sponsored by the Associates of the American Foreign Service Worldwide), diplomatic couriers who died in the line of duty, Foreign Service Nationals killed in the line of duty, military service members killed in the 1980 Iran hostage rescue attempt, and Foreign Service members who died of COVID-19 contracted overseas early in that global pandemic. Annually for the past 50 years, AFSA has organized a ceremony in cooperation with the Department of State to unveil the names of newly fallen colleagues and commemorate existing names. This year’s ceremony will be held on May 3. —John K. Naland n AFSA’S GOOD WORKS AFSA’s Good Works To celebrate the centennial of AFSA’s founding in 1924, each issue of The Foreign Service Journal this year will profile an AFSA program that advances the collective or individual interests of its members. This issue features the AFSA Memorial Plaques. The AFSA Memorial Plaques. AFSA/JULIA WOHLERS