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Col. John Wood, 437th Airlift Wing commander
Col. John Wood, 437th Airlift Wing commander
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Commander's Comments

Posted 6/16/2010   Updated 6/16/2010 Email story   Print story

    


Commentary by Col. John Wood
437th Airlift Wing commander


6/16/2010 - JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C. -- Last Friday, I stood on the flightline as the family of Army Sgt. Steve Theobald arrived to receive him and take him to his final resting place. I greeted his parents and there were no right words to say; no unique wing commander phrase.

A special Army team arrived to perform the transfer from the aircraft to the hearse. They were remarkably sharp. Your Air Force leadership stood in honor in service dress, and as we looked around, we saw our aerial port team, led by Senior Master Sgt. Scott Vendrely, lined up perfectly. The driver of the lead security forces car stepped out of his vehicle - his personal way to honor the fallen.

Chief master sergeants, colonels and squadron commanders were present - all of us ensuring everything for which we were responsible went perfectly, and each of us wanting to do more. In my year at Joint Base Charleston, I've greeted the vice president, numerous four-star generals and celebrities, but this time was different. The entire airfield was completely and absolutely quiet. Airmen and civilians stood silently, knowing someone had given his life defending our nation.

When the crew unlocked the latch to the airplane's bay door, the sound was eerily loud. We watched the family stand by their son, brother and uncle - his body draped in our American flag. Each of us watched as Father Boscoe prayed with them. Each of us wished we could do more, say more, accomplish anything more. Each of us wanted to know his personal story.

We stood silently, honored to be there watching, as more than 30 minutes passed. We felt totally inadequate that we couldn't do more. As we rendered our final salutes, a family member approached me and expressed sincere gratitude for all we had done and for serving our country, and I still wanted to do more.

We followed the family as they drove off the flightline, through the gate onto Hill Boulevard, and there you all were. A thousand of you. Flight suits and battle uniforms. Civilian employees and families. Active-duty and reservists. In uniform, you each rendered a final salute, and in civilian clothes you placed your hand over your heart.

It was an incredibly moving moment, a thousand of you, standing in the heat for an hour, waiting for one moment to say farewell and honor a fallen soldier, our brother-in-arms, and his family. You honored his family in a powerful way no single person could do alone, and I sincerely thank you.



tabComments
6/29/2010 5:37:29 PM ET
My sister in law Susan Rufty is the sister of Colonel John Wood and I just wanted to express my sincere gratitude for the love and support that all of you gave her family on that day. It definitely meant more to her than you will ever know. Thank you for defending our country and for all you do for those that stand beside you and for their families. May God Bless You All
Teresa Rufty, Salisbury NC
 
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