HomeNewsCommentariesDisplay

Last night I met a hero

BALAD AIR BASE, Iraq (AFPN) -- I met a hero last night. I did not realize it at the time, but he is the closest thing to a hero that I likely will ever meet. This is a place where the word "hero" is tossed around day in and day out, so much so that you sometimes lose sight of its true meaning. His story reminded me of it.

He was commanding a Bradley fighting vehicle that was struck with a roadside bomb, catching fire. The loading ramp jammed, trapping eight inside. The crew was forced to escape through a much smaller hatch in the top of the vehicle. All but one made it out. The medic was left behind, apparently unable to get out. Without concern for his own life, my hero went back in to the burning vehicle to retrieve his friend.

Six of his buddies came to us with severe burns. He came to us with burns over most of his body, the most severely injured of the group.

The surgeons worked for hours on his wounds and we worked for hours in the intensive care unit to stabilize him for transport. In the end, damage to his lungs made him too sick to be safely transported by plane to our hospital in Germany and then on to a burn center in San Antonio.

The ventilators we use for transport simply could not deliver the amount of oxygen he needed. If he stayed here in Iraq he would have died of his wounds. We simply cannot care for such severe burns here. Only a handful of hospitals back in the U.S. can.

Knowing this, our air evac team loaded him into the plane for the six-hour flight to Germany. They had to deliver every breath to him during that flight by squeezing a small bag by hand. I do not know yet if he made it to Germany alive, or if he will be able to fly on to San Antonio.

Back home there is a bridge named for Sergeant Elbert Kinser. My grandfather told me the story about why the bridge was named for him. It came to my mind this morning. He was fighting alongside his buddies when the enemy threw a grenade into their ranks. Rather than attempt to run to escape the danger he threw himself on the grenade, saving the lives of his comrades. He was awarded the Medal of Honor for his gallantry, and the town named a bridge after him.

This is the story as I remember it being told to me. The details may be wrong. There is a memorial at the end of the bridge that tells Sergeant Kinser's actual story. Honestly, I do not think I have ever stopped to read it.

How many people drive across that bridge every day without ever wondering why it has its name? How many ever stop at the large parking area in front of the memorial to read the story of this man's last minutes on earth? How many of his friends are still alive to remember the story? How many grew old and had grandchildren because of his sacrifice? Did they thank him every day of their lives? The next time I cross that bridge I will stop for just a few minutes of my life to read about a man that gave all of his.

People use the word "hero" too much. We have cheapened it. We use it to describe football players and politicians. We even use it derisively at times to describe people we think are being too eager or self-promoting. It is even thrown about too cheaply over here when people describe groups of us just doing our jobs as "American Heroes."

Most of us will serve our time here with pride without ever truly earning that title. The man I met last night deserves to be called Hero. Years from now, will his friends remember what he did last night? Will I?

I have said it before and will say it again. It is a privilege to be here taking care of these troops. Are they all heroes? They certainly are more so than any athlete back home will ever be. There is a higher standard though even here. I was honored by seeing him in person last night.

Engage

Twitter
RT @AETCommand: Learning Professionals across the @usairforce can now register for the #AirForce Learning Professionals Consortium. The eve…
Twitter
Esther McGowin Blake 🛩️ Blake was the first woman in the U.S. Air Force, enlisting on the first minute of the fir… https://t.co/kUI5jYlWzq
Twitter
RT @cmsaf_official: It’s true though. Have a fantastic Monday, folks! https://t.co/q2cgZvmaTX
Twitter
#ICYMI Department of the Air Force PT tests were pushed to July. Updates to scoring and physical components are ahe… https://t.co/Gn7fIr0JF6
Twitter
RT @GenCQBrownJr: Thank you to @MEaglen for the recent discussion on how the @USAirForce is #acceleratingchange. https://t.co/Ycx8dLWUwS
Twitter
Hang in there. Spring is around the corner. Icing in any of its forms can add weight to the aircraft, decrease th… https://t.co/U3NA0pqFiM
Twitter
RT @USAFCENT: It’s important for U.S. AFCENT to work with effective, capable partners to advance the security and stability in the region.…
Twitter
.@179AW members recently deployed in support of Operation Spartan Shield. OSS is a @USAFCENT joint forces operation… https://t.co/qeJnOgPT1l
Twitter
#Airmen and #Guardians! Don't forget to register for the Department of the Air Force's virtual Women’s Air and Spac… https://t.co/fHrRzsi4rC
Twitter
Medical professionals administer the Moderna #COVID19Vaccine at Kadena Air Base, Japan. Kadena AB continues to admi… https://t.co/SWw70MsNwf
Twitter
#AccelerateChange or Lose Action Order B: Bureaucracy. Learn more about the Action Orders here:… https://t.co/On0LRHOOf5
Twitter
RT @AFSpecOpsCmd: Special Tactics operators from the 24th SOW participated in a personnel recovery training mission during #EmeraldWarrior…
Twitter
RT @cmsaf_official: It is my honor to be a part of this incredible event at the @AFmuseum. To see an exhibit celebrating the accomplishment…
Twitter
Check out the latest Air Force Week in Photos! Which is your favorite? See more the đź”—: https://t.co/EJKDIKhaE7 https://t.co/iQXfYWBA0w
Twitter
.@KadenaAirBase Airmen train with a #CV22Osprey during exercise Gryphon Jet 21 @374AirliftWing. Gryphon Jet exercis… https://t.co/vhR2nGmjMM
Twitter
#DYK On Sept. 26, 2005, the first all-female C-130 Hercules crew flew in combat. They were assigned to the 737th Ex… https://t.co/0F9vT7bgDz
Twitter
As part of @AETCommand's efforts to #AccelerateChange, Airmen and Guardians can access the “myLearning” digital pla… https://t.co/mAaG4pK8vi
Facebook
The newest Air Force Podcast recently dropped. Listen to a small snippet of CMSAF Kaleth O. Wright talk with Staff Sgt. New about resiliency. Listen to the entire podcast on Youtube: https://go.usa.gov/xpnAD or Subscribe to The Air Force Podcast on iTunes: https://podcasts.apple.com/podcast/the-air-force-podcast/id1264107694?mt=2
Facebook
Our mantra, "Always ready!" It's the spirit we fly by! #B2Tuesday
Facebook
Need some motivation to get your week started off right? Listen as CMSAF Kaleth O. Wright weighs in...
Facebook
The U.S. Air Force Academy gives its cadets some unique opportunities. Ride along one of this opportunities.
Facebook
A United States Air Force KC-135 Stratotanker refuels an F-22 Raptor over northern Iraq, Nov. 6, 2019. U.S. Central Command operations deter adversaries and demonstrate support for allies and partners in the region. (Video by Staff Sgt. Daniel Snider)
Facebook
Although the Silver Star is the third-highest military medal, it's not given often. Today, TSgt Cody Smith was the 49th Special Tactics Airman to receive this medal since Sept. 11th, 2001. Read more of TSgt Smith's amazing story: https://www.airforcespecialtactics.af.mil/News/Article-Display/Article/2024815/special-tactics-airman-battled-through-injuries-awarded-silver-star/fbclid/IwAR2LZWwx1VHdTnQe39rIEBOuJS_0JvMQBBGt7I-E6zsxxn-Lx9387yu43Bc/ Cannon Air Force Base Air Force Special Operations Command United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) U.S. Department of Defense (DoD)
Facebook
Tune in as our Air Force musicians along with other military musicians are awarded the National Medal of Arts.
Facebook
Like Us
Twitter
1,332,321
Follow Us