Military News

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

All gave some, some gave all

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 commander.

"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."

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