Ellsworth commander reflects on Airman's memorial

  • Published
  • By Col. Scott Vander Hamm
  • 28th Bomb Wing commander
Editor's Note: The 28th Bomb Wing Commander shares his thoughts after the May 8 memorial for Senior Airman Jonathan Yelner. 

A grateful nation mourns for this valiant warrior, Senior Airman Jonathan Yelner, who was lost in a noble, life-saving cause. 

We gather to express our most sincere condolences for a man who paid the ultimate sacrifice for a nation and to protect freedoms that we as a democracy hold dear. 

Many of you knew Jonathan and know that he was very "others-focused." From the time he was raised, to being a Boy Scout, through being an Eagle Scout, he always took into consideration other people over himself, and that was no different in his Air Force career. 

He exemplified in his life our Air Force core values that our nation so much admires. 

His service before self went to the point where he gave his own life defending the rights of others. Many will never know that he did this. 

So how today can we honor the life and contributions of Senior Airman Jonathan Yelner? Well, simply - we remember. 

We took an oath to defend and support the Constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic, so help me God - and we remember. 

It's amazing to me that in the 21st century we essentially have a new greatest generation. Jonathan and each of the other Airmen at the memorial service today are part of that generation. 

It's one thing to say, "I love my country and the liberty we enjoy and hold dear," but it's another thing to demonstrate that with our actions. Jonathan did that - remember. 

Senior Airman Yelner's sacrifice is a poignant reminder that there is a cost to freedom, a price to be paid. Jonathan paid a portion of that price - and we remember. 

These are interesting words: liberty, freedom, democracy; words which we hold so dear. They are dear because of the sacrifices we have made and that many have gone before us have made for those ideas. Jonathan did that too. He gave the ultimate sacrifice - and we remember. 

Families also sacrifice so that we can serve our nation every day. Bruce, Yolanda and Matthew, (Airman Yelner's father, mother, and brother) you have sacrificed greatly for your country - and we remember. 

Each of you represents the hopes and aspirations of 300 plus million freedom-loving Americans. Don't ever forget that it and don't ever let them down. 

Today, we the 28th Bomb Wing stand in the gap. If we flinch, we give ground to an enemy willing to take it. So stand tall 28 BW. Stand tall 28th Maintenance Group. Stand tall 28th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, weapons loaders and friends of Airman Yelner. Stand proud that you protect our freedom, proud that you are Airmen and proud that you are American. 

So how can we honor the life and contributions of Senior Airman Jonathan Yelner? 

We honor him as faithful to a proud heritage, a tradition of honor and legacy of valor. He was a guardian of freedom and justice, his nation's sword and shield, its sentry and avenger. He defended his country with his life - and we remember.