Marching in memory of our Air Force Special Operators

How would you remember someone you lost?

Losing a loved one, a friend, a comrade in arms is never easy.  And it’s particularly hard when that person loses his life protecting others and serving his country.  People die every day, and people mourn those deaths everyday.  I, myself, lost my Marine father just a couple of months ago at the young age of 62. No one knows why these things happen and I, for one, will never understand why the good guys have to be taken from us.

The good guys I’m talking about are those who sacrifice so much for the sake of their country and their family. They don’t hesitate for one second to take a bullet for a comrade. Just like Bruno Mars sings, they would catch a grenade for you, throw their hand on a blade for you, jump in front of a train for you… While Bruno is referring to an ex-girlfriend in the song, this can definitely be understood for the military member out there in Iraq or Afghanistan or anywhere in conflict.  No matter what people throughout the world and in our own country think of the U.S. military mission and why we are there, these good guys still take the grenade in defense of freedom, in support of country, in the name of the U.S. military and for the protection of our citizens and their own families. AND in today’s fight it’s not just for the U.S., it’s for freedom of the people in Iraq and Afghanistan as well.

Why do these men and women do this?  Why do they put their lives on the line day in and day out?

I spent the last couple of months traveling to memorials and funerals in honor of three of these brave heroes. Tech. Sgt. John Brown, Tech. Sgt. Daniel Zerbe and Staff Sgt. Andy Harvell were taken too soon on August 6 when their helicopter crashed in Afghanistan.  They were on a mission, along with 30 other Americans to include 17 Navy Seals, to support another unit under enemy fire.  These men who perished all had families back home who loved them dearly. They all had friends who would have given up their own lives to save them.  They were part of a tight-nit group of special tactics Airmen whose sole mission was to save lives.

While Air Force Special Operators aren’t as well-known as the Navy Seals or the Green Berets because they call themselves the “quiet professionals,” they are the ones who are always “first there…that others may live.” These men didn’t boast about or even talk about their jobs but they lost countless blood, sweat and tears to become a special tactics Airman.  While I didn’t personally know them, I learned a lot about them during their services and I can tell you these men were exceptional.  They were heroes in every sense of the word and they were truly loved.

It wasn’t easy to lose these men but we will do our best to remember them.

On October 16, eighteen of these fallen airmen’s comrades will set out on an adventure in their name.  They will begin a 812-mile ruck march from Texas to Florida relaying through five states.  Marching in three-man teams, each team will walk about 144 miles carrying 50-pound ruck sacks and a commemorative baton engraved with a fallen special tactics Airman’s name.

I will travel alongside these men and try to capture the story of their adventure while they march in memory of their comrades and friends.

We are working on setting up a guest blogger e-mail so if we come through your town you can blog about your experience meeting the team!  Thanks so much for your interest!  Stay tuned!

Maj. Kristi Beckman
Maj. Kristi Beckman Chief of Outreach and Engagements Air Force Special Operations Command