Tribute to ultimate sacrifice

by Airman 1st Class D. Blake Browning 86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

A memorial run was held in the honor of Airman 1st Class Zachary Cuddeback outside the South Side Fitness Center March 4 on Ramstein.

The sixth annual homage has become a tradition to members of the Ramstein populous. This year Airman Cuddeback’s father attended the event.

“I’ve always been interested in coming over for one of the runs,” said retired Army Chief Warrant Officer Robert Cuddeback, father of the fallen Airman. “I wanted to come over specifically to show that I appreciate the support that the Ramstein community has given me and my family since his death.”

Approximately 300 participants, between runners and spectators took part in this year’s memorial run to remember the sacrifice made by one of their own.

“Most people would tell you that he was just honorable, honest and helpful,” Robert Cuddeback said.

A member of the 86th Vehicle Readiness Squadron, Airman Cuddeback’s life was taken in the line of duty March 2, 2011.

“Cuddeback was doing a routine aircrew run,” said Tech. Sgt. Allen Brown, 86 VRS vehicle operator. “He was picking up some ‘deployers’ at Frankfurt International Airport, when a terrorist approached the bus he was driving. The terrorist opened fire killing one of the deployers, he then boarded the bus and unfortunately he killed Airman Cuddeback also.”

Thousands of miles away, Zach’s father said he could sense the presence of his son leaving.

“It was a difficult day of course,” Robert Cuddeback said. “I knew right away actually. Before it was on the news, before anybody called me; there was just something spiritual and I knew Zach had passed. And probably 10 to 15 minutes later I received a call from my brother asking if I had seen the news. I tried to call Zach, and he didn’t answer his phone of course. So I kind of knew right away but about 10 to 12 hours later the casualty assistance officer came to the door.”

Cuddeback believes the best thing to do is extract the wisdom from the situation and pass that guidance along so another Airman doesn’t fall victim to the same tragedy.

“What’s really important is that as a former soldier myself, retired military, I really want the Ramstein community as well as everywhere to understand that Zach’s death should not be in vain,” said Robert Cuddeback. “So we need to remain vigilant against our threats around the world. We need to remain vigilant personally and professionally. We need to work towards what our mission is, to protect the citizens at home. Protect America, protect our freedoms.”

While this tragedy still shakes the hearts of many, the Ramstein community continues to honor the sacrifice made by one of their own.

“We’re never planning on stopping,” said Brown. “As long as we have operators here on base we will be doing this event.”