Members of the U.S. Air Force Honor Guard carry a casket during a funeral ceremony held in honor of Tech. Sgt. Daniel Zerbe on Aug. 23, 2011, at Arlington National Cemetery, Va. Zerbe was killed when a CH-47 Chinook he was on crashed in the Wardak province in eastern Afghanistan. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Tiffany Trojca)
Members of the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment lead a caisson during a funeral held in honor of Tech. Sgt. Daniel Zerbe on Aug. 23, 2011, at Arlington National Cemetery, Va. Zerbe was killed when the CH-47 Chinook he was on crashed in the Wardak province of eastern Afghanistan. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Tiffany Trojca)
Members of the U.S. Air Force Honor Guard fold a flag during Tech. Sgt. Daniel Zerbe's funeral ceremony Aug. 23, 2011, at Arlington National Cemetery, Va. Zerbe was killed when the CH-47 Chinook he was on crashed in the Wardak province of eastern Afghanistan. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Tiffany Trojca)
Susan Zerbe is presented a flag during a funeral ceremony for her son, Tech. Sgt. Daniel Zerbe, Aug. 23, 2011, at Arlington National Cemetery, Va. Zerbe was killed when the CH-47 Chinook he was on crashed in the Wardak province of eastern Afghanistan. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Tiffany Trojca)
by Maj. Kristi Beckman
Air Force Special Operations Command Public Affairs
8/25/2011 - ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY, Va. (AFNS) -- An Air Force Special Operations Command pararescueman was laid to rest here Aug. 23.
Tech. Sgt. Daniel Zerbe, 28, died Aug. 6 in the Wardak province of eastern Afghanistan when the Chinook helicopter in which he was traveling crashed.
Zerbe was one of 25 U.S. Special Operations Command operators who died in the crash, which also took the lives of five U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers, seven Afghan commandos and one civilian interpreter.
As friends, family and military teammates gathered at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall Memorial Chapel to say goodbye, Patriot Guard Riders came through the main gates escorting Zerbe's body. Dismounting from their motorcycles, the guard stood tall in front of the chapel, each holding an American flag in silent tribute to Zerbe.
"We wouldn't be anywhere else," said Tim Young, the assistant state captain east of the Pennsylvania Patriot Guard Riders and a Vietnam veteran who traveled from York, Penn., to attend the funeral.
Remembered by friends and family as a selfless hero, Zerbe's need to help others and serve his country came at a young age. At the memorial service for Zerbe Aug. 17 at Red Lions High School in York, his high school friend Brandon Dietz remembered him as a person who went out of his way to help others. Near the end of his high school years, Zerbe knew he wanted to join the Air Force and serve his country. Friends said he could often be found lifting weights and preparing for the service.
Zerbe enlisted in the Air Force after high school and soon became a pararescueman assigned to AFSOC. He was trained as a personnel recovery specialist with emergency medical capabilities in humanitarian and combat environments. He was among the most highly-trained emergency trauma specialists in the U.S. military and able to perform life-saving missions in the world's most remote areas.
As taking care of others was an evident theme in Zerbe's life, the pararescueman motto "That others may live" fit his life well.
"He was the most thoughtful, smart, daring person I could ever aspire to be," said Trevor Nordin, Zerbe's roommate and long-time friend. "The brightness (he) gave us will not be put out."
People who attended the funeral said Zerbe will be remembered for his laughter and his ability to love. He was known as Uncle Dan to his teammates' children and brought a smile to everyone's face around him.
The family's pastor said Dan will be remembered as their colleague, son, brother and friend who left in service to his country fulfilling his dream.
"It's not easy to put the pieces back together again," said Rev. Rick Stuempfle. "The more we love someone, the more ties we have, the more difficult it is to make sense out of it. It just hurts too much."
Zerbe is survived by his parents, Terry and Sue, and siblings Chris and Megan. Megan said she truly looked up to her big brother and will miss him.
"There's no doubt that Dan loved his job, and that's exactly what Dan was called to do," Megan said.
Throughout his service, Zerbe's was recognized by the Air Force with decorations such as the Bronze Star Medal with two oak leaf clusters, Purple Heart, Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Air Medal with seven oak leaf clusters, Aerial Achievement Medal with one oak leaf cluster, Joint Service Commendation Medal, Air Force Achievement Medal and Air Force Combat Action Medal. In addition, he was selected as the Air Force Pararescueman NCO of the Year for 2010.
After the funeral, Zerbe's casket was placed onto the caisson drawn by six black horses. The 3rd Infantry Regiment, or "The Old Guard," along with the Air Force Band, Air Force Honor Guard and military escorts led the procession of family and friends through Arlington cemetery for the interment.
Zerbe was honored with an AC-130 gunship flyover, a rifle volley and the playing of "Taps." The Air Force Honor Guard folded the American flag and handed it to Lt. Gen. Eric Fiel, the AFSOC commander, who presented it to Zerbe's parents in one final tribute to their son's ultimate sacrifice to his country.
8/27/2011 6:57:31 AM ET Thank you for serving. We are blessed to have people like you who guarantee our freedom. Nina Anne, Air Force veteran
Nina Anne Langdon, Sneads Florida
8/26/2011 5:45:39 PM ET Rest in peace, my brother. God bless America.
Bob Casillo SMSgt.USAF Retired, ConyersGeorgia
8/26/2011 3:03:55 PM ET My heart and prayers go out to TSgt Zerbe's family. A very true American patron who will always be remembered. An Amercian hero who died for his country.
Bryan Condit, HQ AMC Scott AFB
8/26/2011 12:29:56 AM ET My heart goes out to all of you: Dan's family, friends, and those in his unit. May God's blessings be with each of you through the days, weeks, months, and years to come.
Bob Simon, Granite City IL
8/25/2011 8:57:04 PM ET Thank you Sergeant Zerbe.
Humbled, Doesn't Matter
8/25/2011 4:46:04 PM ET Touching article about a real hero. But please notice, I didn't put quotes around the word hero because I'm not being sarcastic. Would someone please remove the quotes from the word hero in the article's title! it's offensive. Geez, this is pretty basic stuff...
8/25/2011 4:28:02 PM ET RIP TSgt Zerbe, a true hero and a role model to us all. Makes everything else less important.
8/25/2011 3:59:28 PM ET These Things We Do...That Others May Live.