With heavy hearts and tears in their eyes, service members from several U.S. Air Force units gathered at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan Wednesday for an emotional ceremony honoring six Airmen who lost their lives.
On Dec. 21, six Airmen from the 455th Air Expeditionary Wing (AEW) died during an improvised explosive attack near Bagram. The service members, who were supporting Operation Freedom’s Sentinel, suffered critical wounds when their patrol was attacked by a suicide bomber, the Department of Defense (DoD) confirmed.
The DoD identified the fallen as:
Maj. Adrianna M. Vorderbruggen, 36, of Plymouth, Minnesota. She was assigned to the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, 9th Field Investigations Squadron, Eglin Air Force Base, Florida. Vorderbruggen was a trailblazer. Not long after the U.S. military repealed its “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, she married her longtime partner and became one of the first American service members to be wed in a same-sex ceremony, NBC News reported.
Staff Sgt. Michael A. Cinco, 28, of Mercedes, Texas. He was assigned to the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, 11th Field Investigations Squadron, Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas.
Staff Sgt. Peter W. Taub, 30, of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He was assigned to the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, Detachment 816, Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota.
Staff Sgt. Chester J. McBride, 30, of Statesboro, Georgia. He was assigned to the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, Detachment 405, Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama.
Technical Sgt. Joseph G. Lemm, 45, of Bronx, New York. He was assigned to the 105th Security Forces Squadron at Stewart Air National Guard Base, New York.
Staff Sgt. Louis M. Bonacasa, 31, of Coram, New York. He was assigned to the 105th Security Forces Squadron at Stewart Air National Guard Base, New York.
On its Facebook page, the 455th AEW posted powerful photos Wednesday of service members paying their respects to their fallen comrades, along with this quote from Chaplain (Lt. Col.) David Kelley, 455 AEW Wing Chaplain:
“And to us assembled here today, may we continue to carry the banner of freedom with the same honor and duty as our departed friends. Let us fly, fight and win ... together.”
One day earlier, this statement from Brig. Gen. David Julazadeh, 455th Air Expeditionary Wing commander, was released:
“This was a tragic loss for our Air Force family and all our mission partners here in Afghanistan. These amazing Airmen significantly improved the safety and security of US and Coalition forces across the country. I ask you to keep these heroes and their families in your thoughts through this holiday season.”
The 455th AEW is one of two Air Force wings in Afghanistan – the primary combat wing there. It supports members deployed throughout the country as part of Operation Enduring Freedom.
The commander is supported by a wing staff and oversees five Air Force groups located at Bagram Airfield and Kandahar Airfield, with additional detachments within Afghanistan, according to the U.S. Air Force.