Saying Goodbye To A Warrior (UPDATE)
I‘m headed to a rather somber ocassion, where the family of a young paratrooper who served with the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team will be presented his posthumous award of the Silver Star. It will be awarded in the high school auditorium from which he graduated.
I did aSomeone You Should Know segement about the fight in Wanat, Afghanistan where 9 soldiers lost their life. But they gave much better than they got, killing well over 100 Taliban and al Qaeda.
The young man being honored today is Cpl. Joseph Ayers. This from the script of the SYSK delivered on WRKO 680am, Boston on Pundit Review Radio:
At another spot on the observation post, Cpl. Jonathan Ayers laid down continuous fire from an M-240 machine gun, despite drawing huge volumes of small-arms and RPG fire from the enemy.
The enemy put everything they had into knocking out that machine gun. At least 5 or 6 RPGs exploded all around him and he never even flinched. Those that saw what he did said, “He just kept rocking on that 240.”
The survivors said it was the most heroic thing they’d ever seen. Like a movie. They feel he saved their lives. He kept the enemy from getting anywhere near COP. And Ayers kept firing until he was shot and killed.
I’ll have more on this later.
UPDATE: Well that was one heck of a great ceremony. The auditorium was packed. The Patriot Guard lined the room. Old members of the 173rd Airborne Brigade (from my era) were on hand. So were Cpl Ayer’s comrades. His mother had decreed (in a motherly way) that this ceremony not be a memorial service but, instead, a celebration of his life. And that’s precisely what it was. Speaker after speaker talked about Jonathan, his life prior to the Army, the fact that he was the commander of the JROTC unit at Shiloh High School and that the military seemed always to be in his future.
His former company commander, who will receive the Silver Star in a ceremony at Ft. Benning tomorrow, talked about the fact that had it not been for Jon Ayers, he wouldn’t have the honor of standing on that stage addressing Ayer’s family. His mother, Susan, talked about the son she’d lost but was so proud of the man he’d become. And his father brought the house down with a poignant yet humorous remembrance of his son. After the presentation of the Silver Star to the family, the family was the first to leave and then other relatives. When the soldiers who had served with Jon rose to walk out, the entire auditorium stood and applauded them. 16 Sky Soldiers from Chosen Company of the 1st of the 503 Airborne Infantry battalion lost their lives during their tour in Afghanistan. Over 60 of them were awarded Purple Hearts. 14 Silver Stars. One Distinguished Service Cross was awarded to a member of the company and one is pending. And one soldier from the company has been nominated for the Medal of Honor.
It was an inspiring afternoon – one remembering a young man who gave his all for a unit, in which his mother said, he was so proud to serve he found it difficult to express the full depth of his pride. Today they honored him.