By 1st Lt. Korry Leverett
407th Air Expeditionary Group Public Affairs
Recently I made the journey from Malmstrom AFB in Great Falls, Mont., to Ali Base, Iraq. It was a lengthy process to say the least but upon arrival I became privy to all the amazing things Airmen are doing in the 120 degree heat, day and night. As impressed as I was, and still am, I was swiftly reminded of the serious nature of the business we are in and the toll it takes on the men and women who sacrifice so much for our nation.
As evening approached and moonlight filled the sky at Ali Base, Iraq, 20 or so Airmen and Soldiers gathered at the tail end of a C-130 Hercules to pay their respects to three soldiers who had been killed the night before. It was one of the most gut wrenching events of our short lives but we knew it had to be done. Lining both sides of the aircraft in preparation for the transfer my heart raced. The mood was somber and silence filled the night sky. I didn’t know what to expect of myself and even more importantly I did not know what to expect of two of my young Airmen that were there with me.
“I need you two now,” said Chief Master Sgt. Gerald Delebreau, superintendent for the 407th Air Expeditionary Group at Ali Base, Iraq. He was looking straight at my Airmen and requesting their immediate assistance with the transfer. I could see they were a little surprised but they did not hesitate. They had just been asked to assist in the transfer of a fallen comrade … no questions asked, they were there to support.
As the vehicle backed up to the procession and the transfer team began to unload the flag draped caskets our detail was called to attention and the order to present arms was given. We stood eye to eye at attention, saluting as the team passed in front of us three times. We were doing everything we could to pay the proper respect to those who paid the ultimate price.
As the procession ended and the detail was dismissed I could see out of the corner of my eye a large group of Airmen, many of whom worked on the flightline, off in the distance standing at attention. I was moved by their presence … they had made every effort to cease operations for even just a moment in time to pay their respect.
As we drove back to our CHU (compartmentalized housing unit) late that evening neither my Airmen nor I could say a word. I could tell they were deeply moved by the event and found out the next morning that neither slept well that evening.
We had no idea who the fallen soldiers were we just knew that we had to take a moment in time to honor those who sacrificed so much. Though they were nameless to us they will live forever in our minds as American heroes.