by Senior Airman Racheal E. Watson
386th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
9/29/2015 - Southwest Asia -- The
call came over the radio. An improvised explosive device detonated near
a vehicle with U.S. Service members on a mission near Baghdad, Iraq.
The squad needed a medical evacuation immediately.
"When they got back to the base and he was put in a body bag, we carried
him inside, waited for the other bird to land and everyone lined
up--the whole base," said Staff Sgt. Julie Kurdi, 386th Expeditionary
Security Forces Squadron Fly Away Security Team member.
"We faced each other in the walkway. We waited. We just stood there at
parade rest. We just waited. As his lifeless body was carried down the
walkway, everyone saluted his final salute. After he was put on the
bird, it was just solemn and quiet after that."
Kurdi recalls Sept. 8, 2009, like it was yesterday. It was the day 1st.
Lt. Joseph Dennis Helton Jr., part of the 6th Security Forces Squadron
out of MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida gave his life.
On Sept. 28, 2015, the 386th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron
dedicated a battlefield cross to fallen defenders, remembering the
sacrifices each one gave to their country.
"It means a lot for me to stand in front of you today and talk about our
fallen defenders on the 10th anniversary of the tragic death of Airman
1st Class Elizabeth Jacobson," said Maj. Ryan Natalini, 386th ESFS
"We've come here to honor our 11 defenders who have done their duty.
Quite a few of us in this room had the honor of serving with one or more
of these defenders and we must remember them as they have wanted to be
remembered, living in freedom, blessed by it, proud of it and willing,
like some many before them and so many today, to die for it."
Tech. Sgt. Nick Meyers, 386th ESFS phoenix flight member, awakened a
memory of the aftermath of losing a fellow comrade, Staff Sgt. John T.
Self, assigned to the 314th SFS at Little Rock AFB, Arkansas.
"It was a shock," said Meyers. "We knew something bad happened, but we
just didn't know how bad it was. I remember our chief called everyone
out; it was a mandatory commander's call. We sat around in a circle
outside our tents and he was going through names of people who were
injured and then the final one was Sergeant Self. They said that he was
killed. It was unconfirmed then, but we all knew what that meant. He was
the first one in our unit to get killed."
On base, streets and dorms are named after some of the fallen defenders.
To some, it is just a name or a person in history. To the members of
the 386th ESFS, those are the names of family members. The cross is a
reminder and an inspiration.
"Some people think of members of the military as fierce warriors,
experts of their martial art, but the defenders we remember today are
more than warriors, they're peacemakers," said Natalini.
"They were there to protect lives and preserve a peace, act as a force
of stability, hope and trust. Their commitment was as strong as their
purpose was pure. They had a rendezvous with destiny and the potential
that they never failed to meet. To our brave defenders we reflect upon
their lives and remind ourselves we should make certain their stories
are heard. This defender's cross, which we dedicated today, will serve
as a reminder for all who enter our building that defenders everywhere
are here to serve and protect."