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Scott Sather -- strived for excellence, influenced many

Lt. Col. Darrell Judy, 32nd Flying Training Squadron commander

Lt. Col. Darrell Judy, 32nd Flying Training Squadron commander

VANCE AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. -- During a recent deployment to Baghdad, Iraq, I had the distinct pleasure of serving with some of our finest Airmen helping to bring peace and stability to that country. During my tour, I had many shared experiences and made many friends I won't soon forget.

One experience stood out from the others; one that truly inspired me. This was the dedication of a memorial to Staff Sgt. Scott D. Sather.

You may not know Sergeant Sather, but he holds a significant spot in our military history. He was the first U.S. Air Force Airman killed during Operation Iraqi Freedom. A young man of only 29 years, he served as a special tactics combat controller and had seen combat action in Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq.

His last assignment was with the 24th Special Tactics Squadron. During his time in Iraq he was the sole combat control operator working with the 75th Ranger Regiment's elite Residential Reconnaissance Detachment and directly contributed to opening the first of five critical airheads used by the joint task force in the opening days of OIF.

During that tour on April 8, 2003, he was killed by enemy fire in southwestern Iraq. In honor of his sacrifice the military side of Baghdad International Airport is named Sather Air Base.

On a crisp and sunny day in November 2009, the 447th Air Expeditionary Group unveiled a very nice and most appropriate stone memorial in the courtyard to not only recognize Sergeant Sather's sacrifice but to afford Airmen, Soldiers, Sailors and Marines the opportunity to read his story.

What was impressive about the memorial was not the detailed work on the stone or the size of the audience that attended to show support, but rather the way in which Sergeant Sather influenced so many people during his service in the Air Force.

Many Airmen and Soldiers who knew Sergeant Sather attended the ceremony that day and reminisced about the great guy he was, not only as a personal friend, but as a professional warrior and exceptional example to all.

Sergeant Sather was remembered for the way in which he lived, always with a focused approach to excellence and striving to inspire others to do their best. He had made a huge lasting impression to so many that even six years after his death his memory continues to impact people's lives.

I submit Sergeant Sather did not live his life to be remembered in this way, but it was fitting that it was. Just like thousands of Airmen every day, he lived his life the best he could, embodying the Air Force Core Values and striving to serve his country proudly. It was those attributes and actions that had such a significant and lasting influence on so many. He left a legacy.

Sergeant Sather truly embodied the Air Force Core Values of Integrity, Service and Excellence. By living these values and inspiring others to do the same, his legacy lives on. The lesson I took with me that day is that each of us will have an influence on someone every day.

You don't have to be a supervisor or leader to make a huge difference in people's lives. Any Airman can do it just by striving for excellence and motivating others to do the same. It might only be a small event, but it is likely to leave a lasting impression.

By living our lives like Sergeant Sather lived his, we all can have a positive influence on our family, friends, servicemembers and country.
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