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Servicemembers mourn loss of one of their own

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Thomas Trower
  • 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
The Joint Base Balad Town Hall filled with brothers and sisters mourning the loss of a military family member July 20.

Tech. Sgt. Jackie Larsen, a paralegal working with the Law and Order Task Force of the 732nd Expeditionary Support Squadron, died from non-combat related causes July 17.

Sergeant Larsen, deployed from Beale Air Force Base, Calif., operated out of Forward Operating Base Shield and was the NCO in charge of all personnel movements for the LAOTF. The LAOTF trains Iraqi lawyers, paralegals and investigators in proper investigations and documentation of evidence used in legal cases.

Sergeant Larsen coordinated the daily internal movements for the members of the LAOTF, which works, directly with 26 investigative judges, 15 prosecutors and four trial judges. She also coordinated the daily external movements for members of the LAOTF team who traveled around the country investigating major crimes.

"When (Sergeant Larsen) arrived at FOB Shield, she selected her job as the movements NCO because she wanted to ensure that every member of LAOTF got to and from their destination safely," said Tech. Sgt. Narda Martinez, who attended pre-deployment training with Sergeant Larsen and worked alongside her. "I believe she liked her job, but like most of us, missed her family back home."

Since arriving in Iraq in early May, Sergeant Larsen coordinated more than 600 movements for the 1,200 people assigned to the LAOTF.

"She did her job without complaint and with passion, particularly with the professional and personal relationships she established with our security contractors," said Lt. Col. William Rogers, the LAOTF Defense Bar Initiatives team chief, deployed from Langley Air Force Base, Va.

Sergeant Larsen regularly spoke about her family: her sisters and their children, her husband, her mother, and her dogs, Sergeant Martinez said.

"Sergeant Larsen was a caring, selfless individual who would do anything for you," said Sergeant Martinez, who is deployed from Yokota Air Base, Japan. "If you forgot something at home, or just didn't think to bring that particular item, you can rest assured that Sergeant Larsen had it. And if she did, she never minded sharing."
Sergeant Martinez recounted a story about losing a pair of earrings.

"When (Sergeant Larsen) asked me where I lost them, I told her 'I think I left them in my pocket, in the wash,'" she said. "Sergeant Larsen gave me a pair of her own. Those are the small things that made Jackie special to me -- a person with a big heart." 

Sergeant Martinez wore those earrings to the Joint Base Balad memorial service when she and Colonel Rogers flew in from FOB Shield to speak about Sergeant Larsen's admirable actions and character.

During the memorial service, Sergeant Larsen received a Meritorious Service Medal. The ceremony also included a 21-gun salute and a presentation of a flag that had flown over Balad the day of her passing. The honor guard unfolded the flag, then folded and prepared the colors for presentation to Sergeant Larsen's family at home in Tacoma, Wash. 

"To witness and play a part in two separate memorial services for (Sergeant) Larsen was to see the United States Air Force, and our sister services, at their absolute finest," Colonel Rogers said. "The caring, compassion, solemnity and consummate professionalism displayed were a powerful testament to the respect and tribute the military pays to our sisters and brothers who have made the ultimate sacrifice in the service of our country." 

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