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Exhibit honors fallen Airmen

  • Published
  • By Mike Joseph
  • 502nd Air Base Wing OL-A Public Affairs
There was no hesitation for the mother of a fallen security forces Airman when the invitation was extended three months ago.

I'm going, she thought about the memorial run/walk and opening of a new exhibit at the Air Force Security Forces Museum Sept. 28 here. The events honored the eight security forces Airmen killed in conflict since 2005.

"It was important to me because (Lackland Air Force Base) was a part of the beginning," said Jackie Chavis. "I came to (my son's basic military training) graduation, he did his time, and then he was gone.

"I knew I had to be here. It was in my heart that I couldn't miss this," she said.

Mrs. Chavis' 21-year-old son, Airman 1st Class LeeBernard Chavis, from the 824th Security Forces Squadron, was killed Oct. 14, 2006, while on duty as a turret gunner with Iraqi police in Baghdad.

Family members of five of the eight fallen security forces Airmen were at the museum for the ribbon cutting of the newest exhibit, "Into the 21st Century." The opening culminated a four-year project that began as an idea by Milita Rios-Samaniego, the museum director/curator, to tell the security forces story of new and expanded roles in Southwest in overseas contingency operations.

In a show of support, more than 1,100 security forces Airmen from Lackland and Randolph Air Force bases lined the street in front of the museum as Brig. Gen. Jimmy McMillian addressed the families before the ribbon cutting ceremony.

"We, the defenders that surround you, are grateful and humbled by your presence here," said General McMillian, director of security forces and the deputy chief for Air Force Logistics, Installations and Mission Support.

"These brave Airmen stared danger in the face, protected their defenders and paid the ultimate sacrifice for our country," he said. "We will never forget their selfless service. We owe you and them a tremendous debt of gratitude. We'll always think about what they contributed to us as a nation and especially our career field."

As the sun rose on the morning of the opening, Airmen and family members participated in a memorial 5K run and mile walk. It offered the opportunity to reflect on the possibility of retracing a loved one's footsteps.

"The run was such an honor with all of security forces out there," Mrs. Chavis said. "My son was part of an awesome group of people from the beginning. They've always been there."

Michael Chavis, Airman Chavis' younger brother, felt a kindred spirit during the run. He pushed himself to the finish with the belief he had followed his brother's footprint.

"As I saw (Airmen) go by, I kept going because they're running for my brother like I was running and walking for him," Mr. Chavis said. "I knew he walked and ran on these same streets. I felt connected."

For the first time, family members saw the names of the fallen Airmen memorialized on the wall in the museum's Hall of Honor and on the mock F-16 Fighting Falcons used for training at the Lackland AFB Training Annex. A memorial service and tour of the Security Forces Academy rounded out a full day.

"It is emotional," Mrs. Chavis said. "It's also an honor and a proud feeling. There's sadness in my heart, but the good memories of him and the honor displayed to all the families outweighs it."