Honor comes to those who serve

Capt. Kevin Tuttle
45th Space Wing Public Affairs

PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. – Many of you have heard of the death of
Airman 1st Class Elizabeth Jacobson. She was the first female Airman to
die in the line of fire supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom and the
first Air Force security forces member to perish. She was 21.

Airman Jacobson died while on convoy security near Camp Bucca, Iraq.
The vehicle in which she was riding hit an improvised explosive Sept.
28. She was assigned to the 17th Security Forces Squadron at Goodfellow
Air Force Base, TX.

I had the honor of being her family’s liaison to the news media Oct. 9
at her funeral. In addition to phone calls before the funeral, I spent
about 45 minutes with Airman Jacobson’s father, mother and stepmother.

This was probably the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. What do you
say to someone who has just lost a child? How does one sympathize
without being able to empathize? I had never been to a funeral.

I knew working with the family would be emotionally very difficult for
me. I cannot imagine the sorrow parents must feel after losing their

Arriving at the funeral home near Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., the magnitude
of the situation hit hard. I didn’t feel worthy to console the family.

However, something happened when I walked in to meet the parents. They
were so thankful to have Air Force members at the funeral, including
Col. Scott Bethel, commander of the 17th Training Wing at Goodfellow;
Maj. Kenneth O’Neil, 17th SFS commander; and Chaplain (Maj.) Peggy
Wilkins and the honor guard from Patrick.

David Jacobson, Airman Jacobson’s father, told us stories about
Elizabeth. He spoke of her love of the Air Force and her security
forces duties; her desire to be a chief master sergeant someday; and
the way she always volunteered to do the jobs no one else wanted. The
fateful convoy mission was one such duty she tried to get for a long
time, rather than be in the guard tower where it was relatively safe.

What was surprising was the outpouring of support her family bestowed
on the military members for the jobs we all have to do to protect this
nation. There were no sentiments of bitterness or anger toward the

“People don’t understand that if we don’t win the war in Iraq, the
United States will not exist,” Mr. Jacobson said. “Elizabeth liked
being a troop and was so proud. She made the ultimate sacrifice for our
nation and the cause of freedom.”

I felt rushes of humility and pride as they laid her to rest. I have
never been as proud to be a member of the Air Force as I was that

I realized that even though some of us haven’t deployed, haven’t
directly supported Operation Iraqi Freedom or the Global War on
Terrorism, we all play a vital role to protect the citizens of the
United States. We just have to do our jobs with honor and love, like
Airman Jacobson.