Winner Of The Losers

One man's life experiences and lessons

Archive for the ‘Military’ Category


admin On December - 10 - 2013Comments Off on SACRIFICE. SACRIFICE.

PREFACE:  Must remember Pearl Harbor was 7 Dec 1941, but just 3 days later, Capt Colin Purdie Kelly, Jr died in his B-17 over the Philippines after attacking the Japanese Navy vessels, but unable to out run the Japanese fighters.  He was regarded as one of the first heros of WWII.  This morning, 10 Dec 2013, I attended the Anniversary Ceremony here in the Philippines.  Below are my remarks at the same event one-year ago today.


Capt Colin Purdie Kelly, Jr  Remembrance Day

10 Dec 2012, 8am * Clark (Field) Freeport Zone, Philippines

By Edgar J. LaBenne, Lt Col, USAF (retired)


I am so very pleased to be here today with you to remember Capt Colin Purdie Kelly, Jr.  Capt Kelly is widely considered the 1st American Hero of WWII.  Kelly was a West Point graduate from 1937.


My Message Today: 

Capt Kelly sacrificed his life, for the lives of his crew.  

Capt Kelly sacrificed his life, so you and I are here today in freedom. 


In the United State, we often refer to Capt Kelly and the millions of Americans who served during WWII are part of the “greatest generation”.  The “greatest generation” because of the sacrifices they gave over the 4 long years to defeat both Japan and Germany to regain freedom for the free world.  A war that saw over 60M people worldwide killed.  Including over half of million people here in the Philippines.


My personal connection to the “greatest generation” was my Dad, Raymond Edgar LaBenne, who served in WWII in the Army Air Corps in England maintaining bomber aircraft.  Also, my mom’s brother, my Uncle Russell Wallis Robinson, who served in the Army in Europe.




Only 3 days after the Japanese attacked Hawaii, Capt Kelly and his crew were given the mission to attack Japanese Navy vessels.  Amazingly, they were able to hit the Japanese cruiser, Natori, 3 times.  Unfortunately, the B17 was attacked on their way back to Clark Field by a group of Japanese Zeros, led by their greatest ACE, Saburō Sakai, who was recognized with shooting down 64 Allied planes during WWII.  A pilot is called an ACE when he has 5 confirmed aerial victories.


After his B-17 was disabled and on fire, Capt Kelly ordered his crew to bail out, while Capt Kelly, stayed in control of his aircraft to allow time for 6 crew members to successfully bail out of the B-17 and survive.  However, there was no time for Capt Kelly to save himself.  On 10 December 1941, at the age of 26, Capt Colin Purdie Kelly, Jr died flying his B-17 Flying Fortress.


Capt Kelly sacrificed his life, for the lives of his crew.  

Capt Kelly sacrificed his life, so you and I are here today in freedom. 


I can only think of the Bible verse from John 15:13

“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”


There are so many more who sacrificed for us.  You only need to drive past the Clark Veterans Cemetery to see the white crosses of both Americans and Filipinos who served and sacrificed for all of us.  Over 8,600 heros are buried there.


My second message today is always take time to “SHARE HISTORY WITH OUR YOUTH”.


Today I have my son here, Joshua Raymond LaBenne, named after his Lolo (my Dad) who served in WWII.  I delayed his arrival to school today for him to be here today to learn about the sacrifices others have made well before him.


We are so fortunate to live in Freedom.

Filipinos LOVE Freedom!

Americans LOVE Freedom!


I ask each of you here today to always try to take opportunities to “Educate our Youth”.  Our Youth need to understand and remember our past history, so to continue to protect the freedoms we share and enjoy.   We have neighbors in North Korea and China who are NOT FREE and their people do NOT even understand the concept of Freedom.  Freedom that our youth may take for granted, if we do not educate them.


Mayor and Guy, I am so thankful for this event.  This simple event to remember only 1 man, Capt Colin Purdie Kelly, Jr who represents the millions before and after him, many who sacrificed the ultimate, with their life, so that we can experience Freedom.


Before us, men like Capt Kelly gave their life to ensure that our youth and the generations to follow would be born in Freedom and live in Freedom.  Hopefully, my son will not need to go to war again to protect this Freedom.  But our youth must be aware of the past and if necessary protect the future.  Always conscience of the generations to follow.


“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”

John 15:13


Capt Kelly sacrificed his life, for the lives of his crew.  

Capt Kelly sacrificed his life, so you and I are here today in freedom. 

Thank You Capt Kelly. (Salute)






Below is Edgar LaBenne and Joshua LaBenne, next to the statue of Capt Colin P. Kelly, Jr on the former Clarkfield, Philippines.







Wearth laying ceremony at the Capt Coin P. Kelly, Jr., memorial at Clark Field, Pampanga on the anniversary of his death. Great ceremony with school kids, band, 21-gun salute, 4 WWII jeeps, six (6) reenactors — wow it was a so well organized.






by Robert Taylor

December 7th, 1941, while the Pacific Fleet took a hammering in Hawaii, Japanese aircraft from Formosa were attacking refuelling B-17s on the ground at Clark Field on the island of Luzon in the Philippines. The only surviving B-17s being those dispersed to a small strip at Mindanao.


On December 10th 1941, the surviving19th Bomb Group B-17s returned to the damaged Clark Field to load bombs. Captain Colin Kelly had managed to only get three 600lb bombs aboard when the air raid alarm was sounded. Kelly took off immediately, heading for enemy ships off the coast of Luzon.


Having located a landing force approaching the coast off Appari, Kelly selected the largest ship in the flotilla, the heavy cruiser Ashigara, scoring a direct hit bombing from 22,000 feet. Heading towards Clark Air Field, Kelly descended through broken cloud to 11,000 feet where his B-17 was jumped by a flight of 10 Japanese Zero fighters, attacking one by one in line astern. One burst of enemy fire went right through the middle of the aircraft taking the life of Kelly’s flight engineer and setting the aircraft on fire. With the aircraft mortally damaged and still under attack, Kelly ordered his crew to bail out while he held the aircraft steady. The aircraft exploded throwing the co-pilot Donald Robins clear. The B-17 came down in pieces with the gallant skipper still at the controls. He had no chance of survival.


Captain Colin Kelly was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.

Robert Taylor depicts Kelly’s B-17 under heavy attack from Zero fighters led by Japanese Ace, Saburo Sakai. Sakai later said “Out of ammunition, I flew alongside the B-17 and saw the pilot trying to save the burning aircraft after allowing his crew to escape. I have tremendous respect for him.”


From Oliver Art Gallery (Painting and Details)





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admin On November - 11 - 2013Comments Off on VETERAN’S DAY / REMEMBRANCE DAY


Thank You All Veterans!

It is Veteran’s Day in the United States (most other countries call it Remembrance Day or Armistice Day or Poppy Day).  Prior to the Korean War, the United States called this day Armistice Day). Ceremonies are held worldwide at the 11 hour, on the 11th day of the 11th month (11 Nov) for all Veterans, dead and alive.  This time, 11am / 11th day / 11 month, marked the date and time hostilities ended the First World War.  Below is the Poem by Canadian physician Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae that made the Poppy Flower famous.


In Flanders Fields

In Flanders fields the poppies blow

Between the crosses, row on row,

That mark our place; and in the sky

The larks, still bravely singing, fly

Scarce heard amid the guns below.


We are the Dead. Short days ago

We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,

Loved and were loved, and now we lie

In Flanders fields.


Take up our quarrel with the foe:

To you from failing hands we throw

The torch; be yours to hold it high.

If ye break faith with us who die

We shall not sleep, though poppies grow

In Flanders fields.


Later on a second poem referencing to “Poppy Red” was inspired by “In Flanders Fields”.   Titled “We Shall Keep the Faith” is a poem penned by Moina Michael in November 1918.  She received inspiration for this poem from “In Flanders Fields”.  The “poppy red” refers to Papaver rhoeas (the scientific name of the Poppy Red).  Ironically, Moina Michael was also instrumental in wearing the Poppy Red as a symbol to remember the Veterans who died during the First World War and is the symbol used today for the dead of all wars (see below).


We Shall Keep the Faith by Moina Michael


Oh! you who sleep in Flanders Fields,

Sleep sweet – to rise anew!

We caught the torch you threw

And holding high, we keep the Faith

With All who died.


We cherish, too, the poppy red

That grows on fields where valor led;

It seems to signal to the skies

That blood of heroes never dies,

But lends a lustre to the red

Of the flower that blooms above the dead

In Flanders Fields.


And now the Torch and Poppy Red

We wear in honor of our dead.

Fear not that ye have died for naught;

We’ll teach the lesson that ye wrought

In Flanders Fields.

In Flanders Fields we fought





History of Wearing the Poppy to Honor VeteransLike many, today I had a chance to wear my Poppy Flower. I remember seeing these fake Red Poppies every year on my Dad, a Second World War veteran and many of them were around the house throughout the years.  Only after I went to my European tour with NATO, did I had a chance to visit the battlefields of First World War and cemeteries in Ypres, Belgium, back in 2005.


Now the red poppies that McCrae referred to had been associated with war since the Napoleonic Wars when a writer of that time first noted how the poppies grew over the graves of soldiers.  The damage done to the landscape in Flanders during the battle greatly increased the lime content in the soil, leaving the poppy as one of the few plants able to grow in the region.


Inspired by “In Flanders Fields”, American professor Moina Michael resolved at the war’s conclusion in 1918 to wear a red poppy year-round to honour the soldiers who died in the war. Additionally, she wrote a poem in response called “We Shall Keep the Faith”.  She distributed silk poppies to her peers and campaigned to have it adopted as an official symbol of remembrance by the American Legion. Madame E. Guérin attended the 1920 convention where the Legion supported Michael’s proposal and was herself inspired to sell poppies in her native France to raise money for the war’s orphans.   In 1921, Guérin sent poppy sellers to London ahead of Armistice Day, attracting the attention of Field Marshall Douglas Haig. A co-founder of The Royal British Legion, Haig supported and encouraged the sale.  The practice quickly spread throughout the British Empire.  The wearing of poppies in the days leading up toRemembrance Day remains popular in many areas of the Commonwealth of Nations, particularly Great Britain, Canada, and South Africa, and in the days leading up to ANZAC Day in Australia and New Zealand.



“In Flanders Fields” is a war poem in the form of a rondeau, written during the First World War by Canadian physician and Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae. He was inspired to write it on May 3, 1915, after presiding over the funeral of friend and fellow soldier Alexis Helmer, who died in the Second Battle of Ypres. According to legend, fellow soldiers retrieved the poem after McCrae, initially unsatisfied with his work, discarded it.




Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae

John McCrae was a poet and physician from Guelph, Ontario.  He developed an interest in poetry at a young age and wrote throughout his life.  His earliest works were published in the mid-1890s in Canadian magazines and newspapers.  McCrae’s poetry often focused on death and the peace that followed.

At the age of 41, McCrae enrolled with the Canadian Expeditionary Force following the outbreak of the First World War. He had the option of joining the medical corps due to his training and age, but volunteered instead to join a fighting unit as a gunner and medical officer.   It was his second tour of duty in the Canadian military. He previously fought with a volunteer force in the Second Boer War.  He considered himself a soldier first; his father was a military leader in Guelph and McCrae grew up believing in the duty of fighting for his country and empire.

McCrae fought in the second battle of Ypres in the Flanders region of Belgium where the German army launched one of the first chemical attacks in the history of war.  They attacked the Canadian position with chlorine gas on April 22, 1915, but were unable to break through the Canadian line which held for over two weeks.  In a letter written to his mother, McCrae described the battle as a “nightmare”: “For seventeen days and seventeen nights none of us have had our clothes off, nor our boots even, except occasionally.  In all that time while I was awake, gunfire and rifle fire never ceased for sixty seconds ….. And behind it all was the constant background of the sights of the dead, the wounded, the maimed, and a terrible anxiety lest the line should give way.”   Alexis Helmer, a close friend, was killed during the battle on May 2, 1915.  McCrae performed the burial service himself, at which time he noted how poppies quickly grew around the graves of those who died at Ypres.  The next day, he composed the poem while sitting in the back of an ambulance.




Thank you to all the Veterans who gave their lives!  I will not forget.

NOTE:  Some information and images were drawn from the wikipedia.

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Lt. Commander Wayne Woodrow Hayes of the United States Navy in 1944


Yes, Woody is known for his coaching, but many do not know of his military service during World War II. Woody enlisted in the United States Navy in July 1941, eventually rising to the rank of Lieutenant Commander.  He asked for active duty and served his country for five years.  Woody could have stayed at Naval Station Great Lakes outside Chicago for the whole war, but he volunteered for sea duty.

02“People talk about how devoted Woody is to football,” Mrs. Hayes once observed. “He was just as dedicated to the Navy. Why, we had been married only five days when he asked for sea duty. He didn’t get it at once, but he did request it. Stevie was nearly nine months old before Woody saw him for the first time.”



In 1946, he was honorably discharged as a lieutenant commander, having commanded the PC 1251 in the Palau Island invasion and having served on the destroyer escort Rinehart in both the Atlantic and Pacific operations.

Throughout his coaching career, military icons, in fact, played a large part in the manner in which his teams operated, down to running plays being named “Patton” for General George Patton. Former Ohio State All-American fullback Pete Johnson remarked, “Patton #1 through #6—those were all my plays.”

03Woody commanded USS Ukiah (PCC-1251) a  Control Submarine Chaser and saw combat in the Palau Island invasion.







04Woody also commanded the destroyer-escort USS Rinehart in both Atlantic and Pacific operations, with a crew of 15 officers and 201 enlisted.









05Woody Hayes (on right facing camera) taking command of the USS Rinehart from Captain Engle during World War II, ca. 1943. Hayes enlisted in the United States Navy in July 1941, and obtained the rank of Lieutenant Commander during World War II. He commanded PC 1251 in the Palau Islands invasion and the destroyer-escort USS Rinehart in both the Atlantic and Pacific operations. Born Wayne Woodrow “Woody” Hayes in Clifton, Ohio, in 1913.









Woody Hayes with a group of fellow officers on board the USS Rinehart during World War II, ca. 1943. Hayes enlisted in the United States Navy in July 1941, and obtained the rank of Lieutenant Commander during World War II. He commanded PC 1251 in the Palau Islands invasion and the destroyer-escort USS Rinehart in both the Atlantic and Pacific operations.



07Woody Hayes playfully trying to move an anchor on the deck of the USS Rinehart, a ship he commanded during his service with the United States Navy in World War II, ca. 1943.











Great video of Woody from a BBC Documentary and you can see his military background was an influence on his coaching and life.




During the Vietnam War, he made four trips overseas to visit with and entertain deployed servicemen and women.


 Hayes is pictured with Col. David E. Ott, an expert on field artillery tactics in Vietnam.

Hayes in Vietnam, 1967


 Hayes made four separate trips to Vietnam during the war to support and entertain the U.S. troops.

Hayes in Vietnam, 1967

Two of Many Stories of Woody Taking to Time With US Service Members in Vietnam

I worked at Na Trang for three weeks on pouring concrete and special construction projects. I then received my final orders to be stationed at Phu Loi to work in my MOS 67N20 – advanced helicopter crew chief/mechanic. The Phu Loi base camp is approximately 30 miles north of the capital Saigon. We worked 7 days a week 12 hour shifts. For a few months I worked the 12 hour night shift, then I would be switched to the day 12 hour shift. We were permitted to attend church on Sunday mornings for one hour. I never missed church and always went with a friend from my company. While in Vietnam I saw Billy Graham, Bob Hope at a special secured USO assembly area about 10 miles from Phu Loi. Also, four times we had USO shows at our base camp. One late night, coach Woody Hayes visited our base camp when I was working the 12 hour night shift. I was working with my crew on the top of a UH1D Huey helicopter when I saw a person dressed as an officer, but with no rank identification. Woody said hello and ask if he could talk to me. I said sure I will come down to talk. Woody said please stay up there, that will be just fine. Woody ask me if I knew who he was and I said no. Woody introduced himself as the OSU football coach from Columbus. Woody ask me my name, where I lived and wanted to know if it would be OK that he contact my family. He wanted to let my family know that I was OK and that we talked briefly. I gave Woody the information he needed including the phone number and name of our Mother. He promised he would contact Mother as soon as he returned to Columbus, and he did. Mother wrote me and told me she talked with coach Woody Hayes.

US Army Specialist/4 LES W. CONKEY


“Along with your fellow Ohioans, I am truly grateful for your efforts as a soldier and a Buckeye.”  Mike Demko kept his word.  During the recent Christmas holiday, he was visiting family in Maryland. He and his daughter, a Marine captain on leave from duty in Iraq, arranged a visit to Walter Reed Army Medical Center.  They took more than 1,000 cookies as well as an Ohio State flag to hang in one of the recovery wards.  He thought he’d let Gordan Gee (then President of OSU) know he’d planted the flag for OSU at Walter Reed.  But he thought Gee ought to know about the legacy he carried as well.  He told of the time he spent in Vietnam in the late 1960s, when Woody Hayes visited his unit as part of a USO tour. “The visit to Walter Reed was my way of paying Woody back for being there 40 years ago,” he wrote.  





Wayne Woodrow “Woody” Hayes


A legendary college football coach, Woody served as the head coach at his Alma Mater, Denison University for three seasons (1946–1948), and at Miami (Ohio) University (1949–1950), before joining The Ohio State University in 1951 where, for 28 seasons, he led the Buckeyes to three national championships, 13 Big Ten Conference titles, 8 Rose Bowl appearances, and a record 205 wins, 61 losses and 10 ties. Over his full coaching career, Woody amassed a record 238 wins, 72 losses and 10 ties.




NOTE:  Information about and specific comments made by Woody Hayes and others were drawn from the following sources: Woody Hayes: The Man & His Dynasty, edited by Mike Bynum; I Remember Woody: Recollections of The Man They Called Coach Hayes, by Steve Greenberg and Dale Ratermann; and Woody Hayes and the 100-Yard War by Jerry Brondfield; and The Ohio State University Library.


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My Dad Was A 5 Star General

admin On June - 11 - 2013Comments Off on My Dad Was A 5 Star General




generalGrowing up, my best friend was Bill Harnesberger.  He lived next door and we did everything together.  One day I found my Dad’s Army Air Corps uniforms from World War II in the attic.  Bill’s Dad had served in the Air Force as well in the 1950’s.  Notice we were even wearing the neck ties.  This photo was taken in my house, Bill to the left and me on the right.

There was no PSP, 360, iPad, or computers; we played outside for hours everyday and there was no cell phone to text to come home.  Dinner time was 6PM and you better be inside the house by 6PM.

It was common in my neighborship to play “war” games in the woods and fields near our houses.  My Dad from time to time would tell me growing up he was a 5 star General!  Wow. My Dad was a 5 star general!  Well shortly after I found my Dad’s military uniforms, I was out and about wearing his old uniform. I was with a bunch of other kids and someone called my Dad a liar!  They said my Dad was NOT a 5 star General and he and I were both liars.  Now family honor was at stake and I ended up in a fist fight.  A little scraped up, but my pride intact.  When my Dad got home from work, I was questioned on my daily activities and what in the world happened?  I explained I got in a fight because one of the kids did not believe me when I told them you were a 5 star General.  My Dad’s face dropped, and I knew something was not right.  It was then, he had to tell me that he was not a 5 star General.  Opps.

Sometimes parents may tell kids things in good nature fun.  I did with my kids too!  When American Idol was only a few years old, we watched it as a family, cheering for our respective contestant.  I often would tell my kids, Joshua and Mary, I was going to be the next American Idol after I retired from the Air Force.  They proudly would tell their friends and anyone coming over to the house.  One evening in Belgium, Capt Ken Main was visiting from Brunssum, Netherlands, another NATO HQ, and we had him to the house for dinner and watch American Idol.  Sure enough, Joshua and Mary starting telling Ken that I was going to be the next American Idol after I retired from the Air Force.  Now Ken knew the competition age limit was 29 years old and I was well past that age.  Ken was about to tell my kids, and I quickly kicked him under the table and gave him “the look”.  My secret was safe for another year.

Well maybe in it just wishful thinking, to be a General or the next American Idol.  I need to think of another storyline to come up with for youngest two kids, Kevin, 8 and Gigi, 6, before they are too old too know Dad is pulling a fast one … hope Kevin does not get into a fist fight to save my honor.  LOL




General is the the top rank in most any army of the world and almost always represents a high-ranking official who has dedicated his career to the military. The United States military maintains several ranks within the general rank and this position can go as high as a “5 star general” when the situation warrants it.


Brigadier General (BG) – 1 star

Major General (MG) – 2 stars

Lieutenant General (LTG) – 3 stars

General (GEN) – 4 stars

ARMY – General of the Army – 5 stars (Reserved for wartime only)

NAVY – Fleet Admiral – 5 stars

AIR FORCE – General of the Air Force – 5 stars

MARINES – Have no designation as they fall under the Navy.


Note that the Army rank of 5 Star General is only specifically handed out at wartime during the most extreme of circumstances as it was to the men listed below during both World War 2 and the Korean War (their awarding date follows their name). As such, you’d be hard pressed to find a living, breathing 5 star general serving in today’s military.


• George C. Marshall (16 Dec 1944)

• Douglas MacArthur (18 Dec 1944)

• Dwight D. Eisenhower (20 Dec 1944)

• Henry H. Arnold (21 Dec 1944)

• Omar Bradley (20 Sep 1950)


Additionally, the US Navy maintains their own “Five Star” status in the form of the rank “Fleet Admiral”. This rank was awarded to the men as follows (their awarding date follows their name):


• William D. Leahy (15 Dec 1944)

• Ernest J. King (17 Dec 1944)

• Chester W. Nimitz (19 Dec 1944)

• William F. Halsey, Jr. (11 Dec 1945)


Only one member of the United States Air Force (then as the “United States Army Air Force”) has ever held the rank of 5-star general as “General of the Air Force”. Henry H. Arnold also holds the distinction as the only person to ever achieve the 5-star rank in two branches of the US Armed Forces:


• Henry H. Arnold (21 Dec 1944)


Of note is the grade of “General of the Armies of the United States”, a position held by only two persons in American history – George Washington and John J. Pershing. Of the two, only General Pershing held the title while still alive, Washington being posthumously bestowed the honor by President Gerald Ford in 1976. Pershing earned the title in 1919 after his service in World War 1 and held it until his death on July 15th, 1948.


It also bears mention that, on March 24th, 1903, Admiral George Dewey (1837-1917) was honored with the special grade of “Admiral of the Navy” (retroactive to March 2nd, 1899) which was intended to be senior to the four-star admiral rank. Dewey remains the only US naval service member ever awarded this title. In 1944 (during World War 2), Admiral of the Navy was formally recognized as senior to the 5 star rank of Fleet Admiral.









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My “Tour” Hat Collection

admin On May - 21 - 2013Comments Off on My “Tour” Hat Collection

My “Tour” Hat Collection


From June 1997 to June 1999, I served in Korea.  In the restrooms where Americans would frequent (ok mostly bars outside the military bases), there were various names that included the word “tour” (short for tour of duty), usually 12 months remote (which means without any dependents/family) or for some, 24 months if you were approved to take your family.


Here were some of my favorites:

My Liver Hurts Tour 1997

Kimchee Tour 1997

Sogu? What Happened Tour 1997

Golden Gate 1996

Face Down in a Benjo Ditch Tour 1995


So after having spent a couple weeks on the road in Korea, a few of us created the first hat, Road Crew Tour 98.  I thought this would be fun to create a hat with a few of my friends.  After that I created others with the embroidery shop at the corner of  Aragon Alley and the walking street in Songtan.  All of the hats except for one, were made in Korea and created manually by a master sewer.  The highest number of one hat design was 33 of Thunder Run Tour 99 and 14 of the Gater Tour 98.  You can see the design on the front, several of the hats had messages sewn on the left and right sides and your nickman on the back.



KOREA (4 hats)

Road Crew Tour 98

This was the first hat.  MSgt Goodman, 1Lt Dugdale, Cdr Rowlands, Capt LaBenne went between Pusan, Taegu, Seoul and Osan for US Army EXEVAL via car.  We had a chance to go to Texas Street in Pusan and Iteawon in Seoul.  We got lost almost everywhere, but it was a hoot.


Right Side: Seoul, Songtan, Taegu, Pusan.

Back:  Pacific Kid.



Centennial Tour 98

This hat celebrated the 100th Anniversary of Independence of the Philippines.  The logo was the official national marketing design.

Back:  Pacific Kid.


SINGAPORE (3 hats)

Celebrate Singapore Tour 98

Celebrate Singapore was the logo of the official marketing campaign.  I went TDY to visit NRCC Singapore and DCMC Singapore, where Lt Col Mike Maceyko was the Commander.  I replaced Mike in Korea.

Back:  Pacific Kid.

guam island

GUAM (12 hats)

Island Tour 98


The  USAF contracting and finance contingency competition (COPE BUCS) was held in Guam every other year.  I served on staff and actually organized two teams from Korea:  Osan and Kunsan.  They were joint teams, Army contracting civilians and USAF finance.  The winner would go to AF Top Dollar as the PACAF representative.

Left side: Andersen AFB Guam.

Right side: COPE BUC$.

Back:  Pacific Kid.


USA * FLORIDA (14 hats)

Gater Tour 98


The only non-Asia hat in the collection was for the AF Top Dollar Competition held at Camp Rudder, home of the Phase 3 (Swamp) of the US Army Ranger Training in Florida.

Again I was on staff for this premiere event at the time for both the Contracting and Finance community.  Staff worked and played hard.  Surprisingly they had a bar in the compound staff could drink after the day events ended.

Left side: Camp Rudder, FL.

Right side: AF Top Dollar.

Back:  Pacifickid.

amazing thai

THAILAND (3 hats)

Amazing Thailand Tour 98


Amazing Thailand was the logo of the official marketing campaign.  I went to Thailand for the Tandem Thrust Exercise.

Back:  Pacific Kid.


THAILAND (2 hats)

Nana Tour 99

I had a chance to go to the Cobre Gold Planning Conference.  Nana Plaza was one of the nightlife districts in Bangkok.  I just thought the snake would be a nice touch.


Left side: Bangkok Thailand.

Right side: Cobra Gold 99.

Back:  Pacific Kid.


KOREA (2 hats)

Transition Tour 99

My two year tour in Korea came to an end and my replacement, Maj Ron Story and I criss crossed the Peninsula in 5 days and 5 days in the office.  We worked all day and drank at night. Farewell Korea.

Left side: My Liver Hurts.

Right side: Everybody Loves A Parade.  Back:  Pacific Kid.


thunder run

KOREA (33 hats)

Thunder Run Tour 99

Twice I organized a Joint Contracting and Finance Conference for Korea.  We would have nearly 100 participants — Army, Navy, Marines and USAF.  Thunder Run is going bar after bar, one drink only, in a rapid manner, of course all had to be done by curfew (midnight).  On the sides of the hat were all the names of clubs in Songtan (outside Osan Air Base).

Left side: Young Chun, Gissamo, Wide Wing, Mirage, Top Hat, Eagles, Stereo.

Right side:  Golden Gate, OB House, Phoenix, UN Club, Apache, Playboy, Utopia.  Back:  Pacific Kid.



Farewell Tour 99

Before I left Korea to go to the Pentagon, I took my last trip to the Philippines, hence the Farewell Tour.

Back:  Pacific Kid.

green bean

KOREA (3 hats)

One Legged Green Bean Tour 2003

I returned to Korea to attend a war planning conference. I took Chief Teeter and MSgt Godsey down to Osan AB so we could go out in Songtan.  Since this was the Chief’s first time to go out in Songtan, he was considered a “Green Bean”.  The Chief also was an amputee, having lost his leg in a parachute accident, hence the One Legged reference.  The Jolly Green Giant image (Green Bean) was used with the prosthetic leg.  What a hoot!

Left side: Yongsan / Seoul.

Right side: Osan AB / Songtan.

Back:  Pacific Kid.



You’re My Mate Tour 2005

Mark Teeter came with the family for his first trip to the Philippines.  So we had to come up with another hat!   The name comes from the song by Right Said Fred called ‘You’re My Mate’.  Which Mark and I would love to sing when we went out to play pool.


Coz you’re my mate and I will stand by you

You’re my mate and I will stand by you

And in the face of things that could hurt you

You’re my mate and I will stand by you


Music Video “You’re My Mate” by Right Said Fred


Left side: Manila, Angeles City.

Right side: I Think It’s Your Round.

Back:  Pacific Kid.


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Remembering a B-52G Aircrew from Eaker AFB, Blytheville, Arkansas on Veterans Day

admin On November - 12 - 2012Comments Off on Remembering a B-52G Aircrew from Eaker AFB, Blytheville, Arkansas on Veterans Day


Diego Garcia is a tropical, footprint-shaped coral atoll located south of the equator in the central Indian Ocean. It is part of theBritish Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT).

The atoll is approximately 1,970 nautical miles (3,650 km) east of the coast of Africa (at Tanzania), 967 nautical miles (1,790 km) south-southwest of the southern tip of India (at Kanyakumari) and 2,550 nautical miles (4,720 km) west-northwest of the west coast of Australia (at Cape Range National Park, Western Australia). Diego Garcia lies in the Chagos Archipelago at the southernmost tip of the Chagos-Laccadive Ridge – a vast submarine range in the Indian Ocean, topped by a long chain of coral reefs, atolls, and islands comprising Lakshadweep, Maldives, and the Chagos Archipelago.  The US Navy operates Naval Support Facility (NSF) Diego Garcia, a large naval ship and submarine support base, military air base, communications and space-tracking facility, and an anchorage for pre-positioned military supplies for regional operations aboard Military Sealift Command ships in the lagoon.

The SAC (Air Force) ramp at Diego Garcia, Jan 1991.  Eight (8) KC-135 tankers, Four (4) KC-10 tankers and Twenty-One (21) B-52 bombers.  In the back far right, you can see the tents city for USAF personnel deployed.

 January 17, 1991:  B-52Gs take off on bombing missions over Iraq on the first night of OPERATION DESERT STORM.  Each bomber normally has six (6) aircrew members.







February 3, 1991:  B-52G, tail number 59-2593, from 42nd Bomb Wing, Loring AFB, under command of the 4300d Bomb Wing (Provisional), experiences a catastrophic electrical system failure while returning from a bombing mission over Iraq.  At least five of its eight engines flame out, and the aircraft crashes into the Indian Ocean 2-3 miles north of the island.  An aircrew from 97th Bomb Wing, Eaker AFB, ejects at a low altitude (between 1,000 and 200 feet above the water), and although three crew members eject safely, three others, Captain Jeffry J. Olson, First Lieutenant Jorge I. Arteaga, and First Lieutenant Eric D. Heeden, are killed on impact or drowned.

I was deployed to Diego Garcia for 207 days back in 1991 from Eaker AFB as a Contingency Contracting Officer.  The aircrew of the doomed B-52G was from my base.  Capt Jeff Olson was my friend and often we would meet at the Officers’ Club on a Friday night to play table shuffleboard.  One of the great actions I was able to do during my deployment was to buy the marker above to honor the three who gave their lives.  Unfortunately the bodies of Captain Jeffry J. Olson and First Lieutenant Jorge I. Arteaga were not recovered.  This marker is the closest one could be placed to where the aircraft crashed.

Above is the ceremony on Veterans Day 1991 to dedicate the marker to the B52G aircrew killed in an accident on 3 Feb 1991 in the Indian Ocean.  The marker honors Captain Jeffry J. Olson, First Lieutenant Jorge I. Arteaga, and First Lieutenant Eric D. Heeden.  The location of market is at the Point Marianne Cemetery on Diego Garcia.

The red marker designates the location of the Point Marianne Cemetery.  You can see the full runway.  The water to the left of the runway is the Indian Ocean, the water on the right of the runway is the lagoon of the atoll.


Captain Jeffry J. Olson, Class of 1986, died when the B-52 on which he was a crew member crashed into the Indian Ocean on Feb. 3, 1991. Jeff was the navigator on board the aircraft which was returning from an Operation Desert Storm bombing mission. Jeff was a graduate of CS-24 and most of his squadron classmates remember him as always being full of life. He was the spark that kept his squadron classmates motivated. Whenever times were tough and it was hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel, Jeff was always there to cheer you up and help you make the best of the situation.

Jeff was a highly devoted and motivated Air Force officer. He was proud to be in the Air Force and proud to be a graduate of the United States Air Force Academy. Jeff’s father graduated from the Academy in 1959. He was a pilot in B-52s and has since retired. Jeff’s brother also graduated from the Academy in 1984 and is currently a pilot in the B-52. Jeff was proud to follow the tradition of both his father and brother and become part of his family’s distinguished heritage of Air Force officers.

Jeff excelled in everything he set out to accomplish. He was an expert skier, both on snow and water, and an avid hunter and skeet shooter. Jeff was also a member of the highly-talented Air Force Academy sky diving team, the Wings of Blue. He was also a member of the Association of Graduates.  Most of all, Jeff’s love and devotion for his wife, Cheryl, was never-ending. She was Jeff’s motivation and inspiration for his continued success through life.


Jeff knew of the possible danger he might face while being deployed in Operation Desert Storm. He never once doubted his abilities and continually upheld his responsibilities to his family and country. Jeff’s death has left emptiness in all our lives, especially those of Cheryl and his family. It was an honor to be one of Jeff’s friends. Jeff Olson was a true American and he will be greatly missed. (Capt. G. Scott Campbell, ‘86, 99 AREFS, Robins AFB, Ga.)

Jeffry Jon Olson – ND (27) Gulf War

Captain, United States Air Force

Duty: Radar Navigator

United States Air Force Academy (USAFA), Class of 1985

Birth: 1963-04-05 — Mountain Home AFB, Idaho // Died at 27on 1991-02-03

Place of Death:  Indian Ocean, off the coast of Diego Garcia

Cause of Death: Killed, Non Hostile: Plane crash

Home of Record State: North Dakota


Son of Dr. Jean A. (née Lierbo) and Lieutenant Colonel Norris O. Olson. Younger brother of Marc Norris Olson. Norris served in Vietnam out of Clark Air Base, Philippines and Danang, Vietnam, 1965-1967. His father (class of 1959) and his brother (class of 1983) were also both graduates of the United States Air Force Academy. Jeffry was raised mainly in Grand Forks, North Dakota with his family, which also included younger sister Tara Lynn.

Jeffry graduated from Red River High School in Grand Forks in 1981, the USAFA, Colorado Springs, in 1986, and earned a Master’s degree in operations management in 1989 from the University of Arkansas.

He married Cheryl S. Bono in Blytheville, Arkansas, on 11 January 1989. Blytheville was the home of one of Jeffry’s station stops, Eaker Air Force Base.

Jeffry died when his B-52G, tail number 59-2593, suffered a catastrophic electrical system failure. The crew had just flown a sortie to Iraq as part of Desert Storm and was returning to base at Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean. The six crew members ejected at a low altitude and three of them either died on impact with the water or drowned.

Posthumous recipient of the Meritorious Service Medal and National Defense Medal.


Jorge Isaac Arteaga – CT (26) Gulf War

Captain, United States Air Force

Duty: Bombardier/Navigator

Birth: 1964-07-22 — La Paz, Bolivia // Died at 26 on 1991-02-03

Place of Death:  Indian Ocean, off the coast of Diego Garcia

Cause of Death: Killed, Non Hostile: Plane crash

Interment: Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia

Plot: Section MH Marker 512

Home of Record State: Connecticut


Son of Magda and Enrique J. Arteaga. The Arteaga family had moved to Pittsburgh when Enrique went to work for U.S. Steel as Senior Geoligist. While Jorge was in college, Enrique lived in Trumbull, Connecticut while working at the United Nations in New York City as a liaison officer to the Bolivian government. Enrique, a native Bolivian, was trained as geologist, and he then moved back to La Paz, Bolivia in 1987 to continue working with Bolivian government in the mining industry.

Jorge graduated from the University of Pittsburgh in 1987, with a degree in Computer Science, and also attended Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh.

He married Emily Marie Gardner, from Memphis, Tennessee, in Blytheville, Arkansas on 14 January 1991, just two hours before Jorge went to Eaker Air Force Base to fly overseas.

Jorge died when his B-52G, tail number 59-2593, suffered a catastrophic electrical system failure. The crew had just flown a sortie to Iraq as part of Desert Storm and was returning to base at Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean. The six crew members ejected at a low altitude and three of them either died on impact with the water or drowned.

Arteaga was posthumously promoted to captain. Emily remarried.


Eric Douglas Hedeen – WA (27) Gulf War

First Lieutenant, United States Air Force

Duty:  Electronic Warfare Officer (EWO); RADAR Jammer

Birth: 1963-12-01 // Died at 27 on 1991-02-03

Place of Death:  Indian Ocean, off the coast of Diego Garcia

Cause of Death: Killed, Non Hostile: Plane crash

Interment:  Evergreen Memorial Park, East Wenatchee, Douglas County, Washington, USA

Home of Record State:  Washington


Son of Dolores I. “Dee” and Gerald R. “Jerry”, of Malaga.

Graduated from Wenatchee High School in 1982 and Washington State University in Pullman, Washington, with a degree in architecture in the class of 1987.

He married Susan B. Jahnke on 24 June 1989.

Eric died when his B-52G, tail number 59-2593, suffered a catastrophic electrical system failure. The crew had just flown a sortie to Iraq as part of Desert Storm and was returning to base at Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean. The six crew members ejected at a low altitude and three of them either died on impact with the water or drowned. Eric jumped at an altitude of about 600-feet, low for the parachute to deploy correctly, which malfunctioned.

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admin On June - 9 - 2012Comments Off on EL FASHER, DARFUR, SUDAN

Friends–Kind of long, but some thoughts on my travels and a few cool photos. Enjoy, Ed

8 OCT 2005


Last Saturday I returned home from Africa.  I would have never imagined as a NATO guy, I would be performing a mission in Africa.  But this was my second trip to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in 2 months. My first trip to Ethiopia was in late July for a week to set up the contracts for the NATO office, before I flew solo into Khartoum, Sudan enroute to El Fasher in the Darfur Region.


In the Sudan, I performed a recce (site visit) before we would send additional NATO personnel, assess the security situation and establish contracts/agreements for the life support for those to follow in Aug and Sep.


Some kids with me when we stop along a road my first night in El Fasher. An Italian officer took me out to see the “sights”

NATO was asked by the African Union (the AU is an organization of African nations which has its HQ in Ethiopia) to airlift over 3,500 troops from Nigeria, Rwanda, Kenya, Senegal, Ghana and Gambia into the Sudan to perform as peacekeepers.  Over 90 days contributing nations (US, Germany, UK, Italy, Greece and Luxembourg) would provide aircraft or funds to contract airlift for 3,500 troops and 500 civilian police).  We also assisted the United Nations during an exercise to train the African militaries in Aug.  Finally, NATO sent a team of trainers into the Sudan to train 114 officers from various African nations during Sep.


Darfur is often in the news, as continued violence erupts in a region (the size of France, which is huge).  It has been a clash of religion, culture, and the haves and have nots.  An estimated 2 million people have been displaced because of the fighting in recent years.  Depending on whose  figures you want to use, between 200,000 and 300,000 have been killed.  The AU has 32 camps throughout the Darfur Region to monitor and protect the people.  I found out these camps were all built with US dollars via the Department of State.  I spent 5 days outside the city of El Fasher, where the AU HQ camp for the military operations in the Darfur is located.  There were 500 troops in the camp, with only 10 non-African personnel in attendance.  We are called  “International Experts” from Western countries. This area is by far the poorest of the poor I have ever seen.  I have been to +40 countries over my career and I can say without a doubt this was the most interesting TDY, and most challenging too (physically and mentally).

A local girl riding a donkey back home for the evening. The primary animal in Darfur was the donkey.


There were really two adventures in the Sudan: In El Fasher and then being stuck in Khartoum for 2 days. Actually the people in the Darfur Region were very friendly and I was very lucky to get to visit an IDP (individual displaced person) camp with 30,000 people, the local markets, and visit an UN guesthouse. I saw hundreds of nomads crossing the land and it just struck me: “Where are they going?”  They were traveling where there were no roads. It was like an episode of the “twilight zone”.  Soccer was very popular with all ages. Children were very interested in seeing and touching my white skin.


The real excitement started after the Sudanese Vice Pres John Garang “died” in a helicopter accident the day before I was to depart back to Khartoum (the capital).  Gararg was a rebel leader for 21 years against the Government of the Sudan and had only been in office 21 days. He was loved by the people in the Southern Sudan (Darfur). There were rumors of riots in Khartoum.  I had to decide do I stay in El Fasher or do I try to get out? I called back to Ethiopia on my SAT phone to confirm if Ethiopia Air was still flying tonight.  I get a call back: “Yes, but 5 hours earlier because of the curfew in Khartoum.” What curfew? The one just imposed from 1800 hrs to 0600 hrs and enforced by thousands of 18-20 years olds, riding 10-12 in the back of pick-up trucks with AK-47s and positioned at key intersections in the city.

My favorite of a mother with her baby on her back as she was making a wall for a family compound in the IDP (individual displaced person) camp.


The day it was announced he died in an accident, riots broke out and over 130 died in two days in the capital (Khartoum), where I had to fly into and out of the country. I did not know the situation on the ground as I prepared to depart El Fasher, but I figured I’d better to get out of the country if I could.  Maybe stupid, but once my mission is done, my focus is always to exit home.


My first chance on an airplane out of El Fasher was cancelled at 0830 hrs because it would not be allowed to leave Khartoum once it landed. I was very lucky to be able to get on the only commercial flight of the day at 1030 hrs.  The takeoff was delayed about 90 minutes and we were delayed again in Nyala before going airborne again to Khartoum.  After finally landing in Khartoum, I could not get to the International Terminal fast enough. When I got there, they had already boarded the flight and would not let me process. I am now stuck in Khartoum.  Not cool.


I was a man with no transportation or arrangements and it less than 2 hours from curfew in a city in turmoil. OK – time to look tough and make sure I watch my back. I was in the Haj (Pilgrim) Terminal which could process thousands of passengers and there were only a handful of locals and me.  I got outside, pulled out my SAT phone and called the only number (be prepared) I had for the US Embassy defense attaché (every Embassy has a few military folks assigned).  I explained who I was and asked for a pick up. “Hang tight and don’t move, we’ll be there to get you.”  Where was I going to go?  In less than 10 minutes (seemed like an hour), an Army Lt Col was there to get me.  He took me to an US Embassy housing compound (very secure) where I ended up spending two nights and during the day I worked in the Embassy.


There were more shootings the next day near the airport (which we have to go around to get between the housing compound and the Embassy) and they locked down the Embassy in the afternoon.  Finally, the lock down on the Embassy was lifted.  We head to our quarters before curfew on Day 2.  On a four-lane highway along the airport, we get a flat tire.  This is not cool either. “I think it’s time for a Hail Mary.”  We make a turn and pull over away from the major traffic.  We are vulnerable from every angle and we know it.  Now it is time to figure out the spare tire on a rented vehicle. There are hundreds of locals within 500 yards. Wish I had a tape, because we could have used it as an audition to be on a NASCAR pit crew.  Here are 3 of us (Army, AF and Navy) trying to figure where everything is to swap out the tire.

A shot of ladies in the IDP camp at the water well.


We are in civilian attire, it is hot as hell outside, and curfew is within minutes. Thank God, we had everything we needed.  Matt is completely focused on changing the tire.  I’m helping, but watching like crazy our surroundings; from time to time people are coming up either asking to help (like they have experience) or asking for money.  I’m trying to keep the locals a few feet away.  Inside the vehicle, there are two small backpacks with M-9s (just in case we have to defend ourselves).  Inside my head, I’m thinking: “Please God, get this guy away from us.” Twice I have to position myself to get into the vehicle just in case, but the threats moved on and we got back to work.  We got the spare tire changed, we jumped back in and make our way to the compound.


Well another wild experience to add to my 18 years in the military.  The Sudan is clearly off my vacation list and desirable repeat TDY location.  Attached are a few photos from the deep in the Southern Sudan in the Darfur Region, near El Fasher.

A pretty neat photo of two ladies who were walking home just as a dust storm was approaching and you can see it behind them.

NOTE:  If I had stayed in El Fasher, the next day, I would have been impacted by a flash flood and 2 feet of standing water the in the military camp I was just in.  Lord knows how long I would have been stuck there.

FINAL THOUGHTS:  It is amazing the efforts around the world to bring peace by the US and our friends.  It is eye opening to see first hand.  I have had young and old people come to me thanking me for what America has done for them in so many countries.  I honestly do not think many folks truly understand the magnitude of the efforts on-going around the world, not just in Iraq and Afghanistan.  But there is no doubt in my mind, I am lucky to be part of the strongest military force in the greatest country on earth.

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Memorial Day

admin On May - 31 - 2012Comments Off on Memorial Day


admin On May - 31 - 2012Comments Off on SEVEN HEROS

Below is a piece I wrote coming home one night with seven heros from Afghanistan — a night I will not forget.  Ironically — I don’t even know any of their names — but I will not forget them.  Ed

SEVEN HEROS by Lt Col Edgar J. LaBenne
There are 19 of us leaving Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan tonight.  I know no one else on this flight.  I’m sure some have been here for one-year deployments and on their way home.  One is a doctor from Landstuhl Medical Center in Germany with his surgical equipment I saw during the customs inspection.  I’m sure he was only here for a couple days as he is in green BDU (Battle Dress Uniform), which is very very rare to see down range in Afghanistan or Iraq, as everyone else is in desert BDU.  I’m one of the lucky ones, only 9 days on a TDY in Kabul, Afghanistan supporting NATO.  Most US personnel do 6 or 12 months and there is rarely a day off, it is a constant pace, 12-14 hr days minimum.  On our flight, there are mostly military, but there are also a few civilian contractors.

It is nearly 0445 hrs (4:45 am) in the morning, and it is chilly out.  A 10-ton forklift inches toward the rear of a McChord C-17 with a 463L pallet full of our gear.  We march in two columns from behind the aircraft.   Inside the C-17 it is completely illuminated as the crew prepares for take off and I can see the red and white boxes in the front of the aircraft, forward of three pallets.  Four hours earlier during roll call, we were briefed we will be traveling back to Germany non-stop with wounded soldiers from Iraq and HR.  HR stands for human remains.  Not sure why they use that term.  Seems rather cold to me.  I like hero better, that is what I would prefer.

We wait for the side door to open near the nose of the aircraft.  We all know we have dead Americans from Iraq, but no one knows how many.  Everyone is quiet as we board the aircraft one by one.  Now I can see the stars and bars so nicely draping the cases.   They are anchored down to the floor.  There are seven heroes tonight, silent.

We quietly find seats.  No matter what seat you take, you face the in side of the aircraft and can see all the cargo and the seven heroes. We have seven heroes, who we probably have never met, but we are bound by our service to our country.  They too are in formation, two by two, with the solo seventh.  Three feet in front of me during the entire flight home is one of my comrades in arms, the solo seventh.

You cannot help but wonder:  Is he married?  Does he have kids?  How did he die?  Just yesterday I saw a headline on the CNN website that seven died in Iraq in one attack.  Are these the seven?  There are no faces tonight, just the stars and bars.  Each one returns home equal tonight, there is no rank except hero.

As we get ready to fly, I know there are so many people now waiting this moment in the US for their return, some call them son, grandson, uncle, dad, husband, brother, coach or friend.  I’ll call them heroes tonight.

I’m confident, all 19 of us are reflecting inside on these seven heroes.   How it could be one of us and about the families we have back home.  Personally I do not want to ask the question “Why?”, because there are no easy answers.  As we return home, we all have respect for the dead, but also an appreciation for life.  Our life.  My life.

In a few hours, I will see my kids, ages 6 and 8, Mary and Joshua.  They will ask me about my airplane ride, “How many planes did you take?  Who did you go with Daddy?”  All I will tell them is:  “Only one plane, but I was with seven heroes last night and it was a great flight home!”  And then I’ll give them another long hug, kiss and tell them how much I love them.  Tonight I’ll offer more prayers for my seven heroes and all those who have made the final ride home covered in stars and bars.




—–Original Message—–
From: Judy Andrews
Sent: 08 December 2004 23:46
 7 heroes


Lt. Col. LaBenne:

My name is Judith Andrews and a friend forwarded me your story about your trip to Afghanistan.  I was quite touched by it.  You see, I am the wife of one of those who died in service to our country 3 years ago.  My husband, MSGT Evander E. Andrews, was the first U.S. service member to die in Operation Enduring Freedom.  He died 10 Oct 01 and at his funeral, our son, age 9, was overheard saying my dad is a hero.  Too many today do not see these men and women as heroes, but as those who died in vain.  My heart bleeds and breaks every time I hear that, for I know my husband did not die in vain.  While his death wasn’t in combat, he was in CE and his death was due to an accident, he was there in support of our fight on terrorism.  The Air Force did name the camp he was helping to build, at the time of his death, after him; Camp Andy.  We are proud of him and his service to his country.  Thank you for your thoughts and respect for our fallen.


Judith Andrews

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