Coming together to honor life, sacrifices of an Airman's final act of courage
By Airman 1st Class Eric Schloeffel, 23rd Wing Public Affairs
/ Published October 30, 2006
MOODY AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. -- Members from various groups and squadrons here gathered to honor the life and sacrifices of Airman 1st Class LeeBernard Chavis Oct. 19, 2006, at the base chapel.
Airman Chavis was killed Oct. 14, 2006, in the line of duty while performing duties as a turret gunner with his security forces' team while on joint patrol with the Iraqi police in the vicinity of Baghdad, Iraq.
During the ceremony, Airman Chavis was remembered for his infectiously upbeat personality that lent a positive mood to friends and fellow Airmen.
"There were times when I would get off work angry, but if I went to Chavis' room, I'd forget all about it," said Willie Harrell, a friend of Airman Chavis who spoke at the ceremony. "There was never a dull moment when I was working with him.
"Those still here can learn from him," added Mr. Harrell. "Live as if each day were your last; live as if there is no tomorrow."
During Mr. Harrell's speech, he asked the attendees to stand and clap for his fallen comrade, marking one of the ceremony's emotional climaxes.
In addition to Airman Chavis' cheerful persona, he was also remembered as a thoughtful friend and companion who deeply cared for his fellow Airmen, said Staff Sgt. Belon Durham, 824th Security Forces Squadron.
"He always came by to ask me how I was doing or if I needed anything, and he did that for everyone," she said. "He was always there for me and was just a wonderful person - always laughing and smiling."
Airman Chavis, 21, native of Hampton, Va., entered the Air Force on March 31, 2004, and later served two tours in Iraq.
During his recent deployment to Baghdad, Airman Chavis conducted 37 patrols as a lead vehicle gunner, wile contributing to training of more than 200 Iraqi policemen.
"Airman Chavis was mortally wounded while securing the site of a suspected improvised explosive device," said Col. John Decknick, 820th Security Forces Group commander. "He did this while protecting the lives of countless innocent Iraqi civilians in an area known to be a hub of anti-Iraqi force enemy activity.
"Fully aware that sniper and IED attacks in recent weeks had killed or injured scores of Iraqi police and civilians in the vicinity, he steadfastly maintained his tactical position and never wavered from his combat over-watch duties," the colonel added. "While manning the M-2 machine gun on the leading vehicle, Airman Chavis refused to abandon his post, even as he knew with each increasing moment his courageous actions would ultimately expose him to the sights of the enemy."
For the sacrifices Airman Chavis made for his country, he was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star and Purple Heart. His burial was held Tuesday at Arlington National Cemetery.
Airman Chavis' dedication to defending and supporting freedom in the face of insurgent extremists is an example of a modern-day hero, whose efforts are looked upon with pride and respect, said Colonel Decknick.
"Lee was a great American; a beacon for all us to emulate and an inspiration to remember," he said. "Just like the previous generations of great Americans that faced other enemies, we need to learn from heroes like Lee and fight rock solid against the enemy.
"We join together for those still in the fight; that they may continue the mission until all come home safely," the colonel added. "We are in a fight for our nation's existence, and men like Lee provide the motivation to press on."