Kandahar remembers fallen heroes with memorial ceremony

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Scott Saldukas
  • 451st Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
The men and women of the 451st Air Expeditionary Wing came together during a remembrance ceremony here July 13 to honor the Airmen assigned to the wing's area of operations who paid the ultimate sacrifice.

While deployed to Kandahar Airfield in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, 13 Airmen lost their lives while filling combat roles.

Airman 1st Class Raymond Losano was killed during a firefight with enemy troops April 25, 2003, in eastern Afghanistan but not before coordinating close air support that helped prevent his unit from being overrun.

Airman 1st Class Jesse Samek died from injuries he received when an HH-60 Pave Hawk crashed during a medical evacuation 105 miles east of Shindand, Afghanistan, Oct. 21, 2004.

Senior Airman Bradley Smith and his unit came under attack from heavy small-arms fire and mortar rounds before his team triggered a pressure plate improvised explosive device throwing three members away from their unit. Smith recovered and administered first aid for two of the three IED victims, while holding off the enemy before selflessly volunteering to recover the third blast victim before detonating another IED less than 10 meters from the casualty collection point. Smith gave his life on the battlefield Jan. 3, 2010, trying to save his brethren.

First Lt. Joel Gentz, Tech. Sgt. Michael Flores, Staff Sgt. David Smith and Senior Airman Benjamin White were killed when their HH-60 Pave Hawk was shot down near Forward Operating Base Jackson, Helmand Province, Afghanistan, June 9, 2010.

Capt. David Wisniewski, died July 2, 2010, at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., from wounds sustained in the June 9, 2010, HH-60 Pave Hawk crash.

Capt. James Steel gave his life when his F-16C Fighting Falcon crashed near Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, while returning from a close air support mission April 3, 2013.

Capts. Reid Nishizuka and Brandon Cyr, and Staff Sgts. Daniel Fannin and Richard Dickson, died April 27, 2013, when their MC-12 Liberty crashed in Zabul province, Afghanistan.

The ceremony opened with a moment of silence to remember not only the members who were deployed here, but to every service member who paid the ultimate price in defending their country.

"Ladies and gentlemen, as you entered today you are able to see a table set for one here," said Master Sgt. Shaun Autrey, a ceremony narrator. "It holds a place of honor with us today and is a way of symbolizing the fact that members of our profession are missing from our midst. They are commonly called fallen comrades, some prisoners of war or missing in action, but we call them brothers and sisters."

He went on to explain how the table set for one represented the frailty of life. The white of the table cloth represented the purity of their motives when answering the call of duty while the black represented the mourning for fallen brothers and sisters.

The single rose and candle was placed to remind Airmen of the families and loved ones of those brothers and sisters in arms, who keep the faith awaiting their return. A slice of lemon on a bread plate served as a reminder of their bitter fate while salt spilled on the plate was symbolic of the families' tears as they waited for word on their loved one, Autrey added.

A Bible on the table represented strength gained through faith, an inverted wine glass for those who can no longer toast with us today, he said, and a yellow ribbon for the hopes and prayers of the families and friends who waited for the safe return of their loved ones.

"Our hope today is that they will hear us as we honor their ultimate sacrifice," Autrey said.

A short video commemorating each of the fallen as Airmen, husbands, fathers, brothers and friends was shown before a poem was read as a fallen comrade memorial was built with a single pair of boots, a rifle, helmet and set of dog tags.

"It's an honor to be here and be able to pay respects to these fallen heroes and serve next to each and every one of you," said Brig. Gen. John Dolan, the 451st Air Expeditionary Wing and Kandahar Airfield commander. "As we sit here and celebrate their lives and pay respect to these Airmen, it is a solemn reminder that we need to reflect and think of all the Airmen who have come before us. We all must go on, go to work and complete the mission, but let's use this moment until this conflict is done -- let this be a reminder to you of why we are here."

Following the general's remarks, the Airmen of the wing rendered a final salute to their fallen brothers in arms to conclude the ceremony.