Tuesday, May 7, 2013

The War Hits Home

U.S. military involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan is winding down. It reminds me so much of the final days of the Vietnam war - the casualty rate was decreasing, the public was losing interest, and no one wanted to be the last person to die in what had become a stagnant, if not failing, conflict.

I see many of the same symptoms today. Thankfully, American casualties have decreased to the point where when there are some, it makes headlines. But the sad, ugly, hidden truth behind those headlines is that each casualty is someone's son, husband, father, brother, loved one.

That truth hit home last Friday when a young man from our community died in a plane crash 'over there.'
Three airmen, including one from Boerne, were killed on Friday when their military aircraft crashed in Kyrgyzstan.

Capt. Mark Tyler Voss, 27, was part of the 93rd Air Refueling Squadron crew from Fairchild Air Force Base southwest of Spokane, Washington.

According to the Department of Defense, Voss and two other airmen were in a KC-135 refueling aircraft that crashed shortly after take off. The refueling plane was headed to Afghanistan.

The Department of Defense identified the other two airmen as Capt. Victoria Pinckney, 27, of Colorado Springs, Colo. and Tech Sgt. Herman Mackey III, 30, from Bakersfield, Calif. 

Voss graduated from Boerne High School in 2004. His parents told KSAT their son was a great kid, loved to fly and was able to fulfill his dreams of becoming a pilot.

Voss' parents said Tyler had dreams of going to the U.S. Air Force Academy, and he not only fulfilled his dreams, but also received a training award for having the highest score in his class on flight check rides. 

Voss' parents also shared a letter from one of his  former co-pilots. In it, he described Tyler as a "bright young co-pilot" who "handled the airplane with a rare deft touch." He (Tyler) "planned the mission with wisdom beyond his few years and reacted to changes in the mission with confidence..."
A more poignant  message was posted on Facebook by a friend of the Voss family.
A dear friend of mine lost her son in our country's service this week. Captain Tyler Voss was killed in the air tanker crash in Kyrgyzstan. Tyler was a 2004 graduate of Boerne High School, after graduation he attended the Air Force Academy and achieved his dreams of becoming an Air Force pilot and serving his country. He and his family attend St. John Lutheran church and I remember him coming with his parents to services whenever he was in town. He often served as an usher or helped his mother with communion. He was a wonderful young man and I would like for his family to know how much we as a community appreciate him. Could you please fly your flag and tie a yellow ribbon around a tree in your front yard in his honor for the next couple of weeks? What a beautiful feeling of love this would be for his parents if this entire town would do this in tribute to their selfless son.
This is a relatively small community - around 9000 or so residents. Most of us who have been here for a while have at least a nodding acquaintance with other old-timers. We know who the Vosses are, we say 'Hi' to them on the street, but we're not close. That doesn't mean we don't share their loss.

For such a small town, we've contributed more than our share of young men and women to the service of our country. We're very proud of that.
U.S AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. (2007) The small Texas town of Boerne is making a big presence at the U.S. Air Force Academy.

It's unlikely any town of comparable size has five cadets at the Academy. They include Cadet 1st Class Mark Voss, Cadet 2nd Class Daniel Velo, Cadet 3rd Class Mike Rogers, Cadet 3rd Class Ashley Langston and Cadet 4th Class A.J. Smith.

Most of the cadets were involved with the high school Air Force Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps, which helped spark their interest to attend the Academy.

When growing up, Cadet 1st Class Mark Voss had a close family friend who was an Air Force Vietnam combat veteran who spoke highly of the Academy and sparked his desire at a very early age to come to the Academy.

"I feel like there's something about the conservative rural culture that really respects military members, that motivates younger people to join," said Cadet's Squadron 36's aeronautical engineering major. "Boerne does have a lot of patriotic roots, especially in the older generations which is evident in Veteran's Day parades, Memorial Park and general flag waving or bumper stickers. I certainly don't feel the same way in say Boulder or Denver."

Graduation beckons.  Then a pilot slot and training.

"As a firstie, it is easier to reflect on my experience here," said Cadet Voss.  I will be graduating soon, but there were times when I wasn't so sure."

"Everyone in Boerne is very supportive of us going to the Academy and always have plenty of questions to ask about it," Cadet Voss said. "At church or in the store people congratulate you a lot and you can tell they receive you in a much different way than my other friends going to college or just working in the area."
There is a movement underway to have residents fly the American flag and tie yellow ribbons around trees in honor of Capt. Voss. Knowing the folks around here, I'm expecting the best.

Godspeed, Captain Voss. May you Rest In Peace. And may a merciful God grant peace to your friends and family.


Old NFO said...

AMEN... Sad loss any time, even sadder when you actually KNOW the person/family.

Bag Blog said...

Lawton/Ft. Sill lost four young men recently to a roadside bomb in Afghanistan. Very sad.

Harper said...

Prayers for that courageous young man's family. I know that your community will wrap its arms around them - ain't that the beauty of most smallish Texas towns?

jeffli6 said...

I hope the town lights up with flags and yellow ribbons.

CenTexTim said...

NFO - you're right. They ALL hurt, but it hurts a little more when it's personal. Reminds me of the line from John Donne:

“Any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind..."

BB - Sorry to hear about that loss. I find it interesting -- telling, actually -- how so many of our troops come from small towns and rural areas. That says something about the folks who choose to live there.

Harper - yes, that is the beauty of not just small Texas towns, but small towns in general - a great sense of community.

Jeff - if I know Boerne, the local stores will sell out of flags and yellow ribbon.

Toejam said...

God bless ALL of our troops.

Rest in Peace Capt. Voss.

I grieve for your family in their days of sorrow.