ANDERSEN AIR FORCE BASE, Guam. -- Service members from the United States, Australia and Japan air forces gathered around the open cargo hold of a C-130 Hercules Dec. 6, 2016, here to remember Senior Airman Jeremy Jutba-Hake.
Hake was a C-130H instructor loadmaster from the 36th Airlift Squadron, Yokota Air Base, Japan, who collapsed during post-flight duties and later died following a training mission in support of Operation Christmas Drop at Andersen AFB in December last year.
Both a U.S. and a Hawaiian flag hung inside the C-130 over a special delivery bundle dedicated to Hake as those close to the 22-year-old native of Hawaii, remember the legacy of leadership and service left behind.
Hake’s mother and father, Eva Hake and U.S. Air Force retired Chief Master Sgt. Jonathan Hake, both traveled to Guam to participate in the memorial and see the operation Hake supported before his untimely death.
“It’s a wonderful tribute to the fact that the Air Force is a family,” Jonathan said. “This has been one sterling example of how those aren’t just words. We’re really grateful to his squadron and everyone at Operation Christmas Drop.”
During the ceremony, Hake’s friends and family spoke of his kindness and leadership. They described him as the type of person who would help anyone in need. They spoke of what he taught them both professionally and personally, and the legacy he leaves behind.
“Every time you hug your spouse or your children, and when you spend that extra time with your family, you picture Jeremy,” said Lt. Col. Dale Davies, 36th AS commander. “Ladies and gentlemen, that’s a legacy.”
To honor Hake’s legacy, fellow Airmen began a memorial foundation in his honor. The foundation’s name is Santa 61, the call sign of Hake’s last flight.
“All the money donated to Santa 61 goes to Operation Christmas Drop because this mission is the best thing a loadmaster can [participate in],” said Senior Airman Anthony Schoof. “We love it, and I know he loved it.”
After the memorial ceremony was complete, the 36th AS crew completed their training mission to deliver the supply-filled bundle covered with messages and photos honoring Hake’s memory to the island of Satawol.
After the drop was complete, the islanders gathered on the beach as the aircraft passed over one last time. Each person waved at the aircraft while displaying a smile probably much the smiles from her son that Eva will always remember.
“He had a contagious smile,” Eva said. “He told his father last year how happy he was to be a loadmaster and he loved his job. He loved his squadron and all the people he had met along the way. He always lived like there was no tomorrow.”
Sixty-five years in the running, Christmas Drop is the Department of Defense’s longest-running humanitarian airlift operation. The tradition began during the 1952 Christmas season when a B-29 Superfortress aircrew saw islanders waving at them from the island of Kapingamarangi, 3,500 miles southwest of Hawaii.
In the spirit of Christmas the aircrew dropped a bundle of supplies attached to a parachute to the islanders below, giving the operation its name. This year brings together three nations, three corporate sponsors and three U.S. military branches. Today, air drop operations include more than 50 islands and thousands of people.