In Memory of Many….In Honor of All

“Thank you”….two simple words we use frequently in our daily routines, but yet for many, these words are seldom heard.

Let me tell you about a true story involving a 19 year old Airman on his first deployment to Afghanistan. When the deployment order hit base, he eagerly volunteered to deploy with his Team of explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) personnel….the deployment package was heading to Bagram airfield located in eastern Afghanistan, close to the Pakistan border. This young man volunteered to fill the manpower slot, so other service members with families could remain off the rotation during the holidays and enjoy their home time.

During the deployment, this young Airman cleared some of the most dangerous mind fields in the AOR with astonishing success, working closely with other joint task force members working to provide safe passage for thousands of coalition ground forces in the area. The Operation’s tempo was high in the AOR, as it usually is, and his tour of duty seemed to quickly pass by as he worked to master the skills needed to operate in a war-time environment.

This young Airman was excited about his tour of duty, but more excited to be heading home to see his parents who had kept closely in touch with him during his deployment. A huge celebration had been planned upon his return and he could not wait to get home. It was time for his last mission and he volunteered to lead the Team on a routine clearing mission not far from the base perimeter. The Team executed their orders and had returned to the “safe-zone” and were discussing plans back home when everything quickly changed.

The team had encountered an IED and had suffered heavy casualties. When the smoke had settled and the perimeter was secured, all was not the same as it had started…two Airmen lay wounded, one of them fatal due to his extremities being severed; he was killed instantly. This young Airman was our 19-year old American Hero, who would never hear his parents voice again or the words he deserved to hear, a simple… “Thank You”.

This Veterans Day, we say “Thank You” to all Veterans and their families for your sacrifices. Two simple words, presented with the utmost honor and respect.

Senior Master Sergeant (Retired)
Joseph Thornton



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