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Guam honors fallen aircrew with memorial

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Brian Bahret
  • 36th Wing Public Affairs
As Guam made preparations to celebrate the island's 65th anniversary of liberation from foreign occupation, government, civilian and military officials paused July 20 to remember the six Airmen of "Raider 21" who died when their B-52 crashed one year ago.
Government of Guam, Guam Chamber of Commerce, Armed Forces Committee, Andersen Civilian Advisory Council and Andersen military representatives hosted a ceremony honoring the memory of the six Airmen who died in a B-52 accident July 21, 2008.

Approximately 300 people, including military members representing all of the services, Guam residents, and family representing each Airman aboard Raider 21 were present.

"Let no one doubt the value of the lives that these men lived," said Brig. Gen. Phil Ruhlman, 36th Wing commander. "The crew of Raider 21 gave their lives in the defense of this great nation."

The aircrew was deployed to Andersen in support of the U.S. Pacific Command's Continuous Bomber Presence.

"They gave their lives deterring any adversary and assuring all our allies and partners," General Ruhlman said. "What they did was essential to America's defense as it was back in 1944, as it was during the Vietnam War, as it will be in the future."

Raider 21 was offered full military honors during the ceremony. Aircrews from the 36th Operations Group also paid their final respects. A four-ship of F-22 Raptors performed a missing man formation while flying over the memorial site followed by a B-52 Stratofortress.

In addition to the military honors, civilian and military officials unveiled a memorial dedicated to the aircrew.

"The monument is a symbol of our community's appreciation of the lives of these brave men who proudly served America in the cause of freedom," said Guam's Governor Felix Camacho. "No words can describe the loss of a loved one, but to the family and friends of these admirable men, please note, that your family - the people of Guam - appreciate them and will continue to keep you in our hearts and prayers."

General Ruhlman thanked the Government of Guam, the Chamber of Commerce and all the entities who helped coordinate the memorial and organize the ceremony.

"This memorial of the crew of Raider 21 would not have been possible without the efforts of many people," said General Ruhlman. "Words cannot express the gratitude that the families feel and that we feel for everything that you've done."

The ceremony was also an opportunity for the Air Force to recognize Reina Leddy, Guam Chamber of Commerce president, who died July 2 while serving the island. According to General Ruhlman, Ms. Leddy was a driving force behind the monument.

"This was her vision," he said. "Today, we remember Reina, because she remembered Raider 21."

Ms. Leddy's memorial came in the form of a latte stone, a symbol of Guam's history, with the names of the Raider 21 aircrew etched on its surface: Col. George Martin, 36th Medical Group deputy commander and chief of aerospace medicine; Maj. Christopher Cooper, 96th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron aircraft commander; Capt. Michael Dodson, 20th EBS copilot; Maj. Brent Williams, 96th EBS radar navigator; 1st Lt. Joshua Shepherd, 20th EBS navigator; 1st Lt. Robert Gerren, 20th EBS electronic warfare officer.

"This memorial is simple in form, yet strikingly symbolic on many levels," said Lt. Col. Kieran "Denny" Denehan, 36th Operations Group deputy commander and ceremony narrator. "Its design is that of the latte stone - a symbol representing a support or foundation in Chamorro culture - and represents the long lasting mutual rapport and foundation of trust between our military and our friends in the Guam community."

Guam Congressional Delegate Madeleine Bordallo said the memorial is a fitting tribute to those who continue to serve.

"We ... dedicate this beautiful monument in honor of those Airmen in the same way we commemorate and honor those who made that very first Liberation Day and every Liberation Day since a reality," she said.

She added that it's a "fitting memorial to those Airmen who were fulfilling their duties in Defense of our nation. This monument will always remind of us of the bravery and sacrifices of our men in uniform and that they've made in the name of peace, freedom and America."

Congresswoman Bordallo offered her condolences to the family and friends of Raider 21.

"As a people and culture who value family above all else, the Guamanian family knows and understands the sorrow and the pain of your loss," she said. "But know that every time this monument is visited, especially by those who understand its meaning and its purpose, there will be prayers and remembrances for those to whom it is dedicated. Because of their gallantry and sacrifice, they will forever be a part of our island family."

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