The 455th keeps the spirit alive
By Maj. John Puckett, 455th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
/ Published August 15, 2010
BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan -- On Saturday, 24 July 2010, the 455th Air Expeditionary Wing's Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron dedicated its new Vehicle Operations Control Center at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, to the memory of Senior Airman Ashton Lynn Marie Goodman.
Goodman was a member of the squadron who performed gun truck duty before being hit by a roadside bomb and killed in May 2009.
455th ELRS members gathered in the compound of the new center in front of the American flag and a monument approximately four-feet tall covered with a camouflaged tarp.
Senior Airman Stephanie Smith, 455th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron member, opened the ceremony by singing the national anthem.
Senior Airman Randolph Avellino, a member of ELRS, delivered the invocation.
The ceremony's emcee, Staff Sergeant Robert Harper, a vehicle operator assigned to the ELRS, said the Air Force's intent for a memorial ceremony is to provide lasting honor and pay tribute to the deceased, as well as the living. Harper said the dedication ceremony would ensure permanent remembrance of Goodman.
Major Gabriel Lopez, the 455th ELRS Commander, was the program's featured speaker. Lopez noted that Goodman graduated from high school in 2006 and her first deployment involved duty on a gun truck.
"We're here today to remember Ashton's spirit and the things she stood for," Lopez said.
"All of her friends said she had a zest for life and she wasn't afraid to get dirty. She was just like us; happy to serve. We'll remember her as long as this place is here."
Before his speech, Lopez credited Harper as the person behind the drive to dedicate the control center in Goodman's honor.
"If you hear him talk about Ashton Goodman, it's like they knew each other for years," Lopez said. "It shows the tight bond within this community. Dedicating this building allows us to remember a fallen comrade.
"None of us here personally knew her, but we all feel a connection just because what she was doing is what we do every day. It's awesome to be a part of her mission."
In turn, Harper thanked Staff Sgt. Peter Kumanowski, a member of the 455th Expeditionary Civil Engineering Squadron.
"I want to personally thank Staff Sergeant Kumanowski," Harper said. "I gave him the idea [for the memorial] and he took off like a rocket. He went above and beyond [in constructing this memorial] and I am eternally grateful."
"Thank you for the opportunity to do it," Kumanowski said.
Staff Sgts. Harper and Kumanowski then stepped to the memorial and pulled off the tarp as the audience of military men and women clapped and cheered.
The uncovered shrine glinted in the Afghanistan sunlight and revealed a plate with Goodman's picture and two of the medals she earned during her career. Emblazoned on its base were three Latin words: Studium Nunquam Intereo.
It's no coincidence that the same Latin phrase was tattooed on Goodman's arm. What's it mean? Spirit never dies.
And on Saturday, the 455th ELRS made sure of that.
Editor's Note: Staff Sgt. Peter Kumanowski is a member of the 174th Fighter Wing deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom assigned to the 455th Expeditionary Civil Engineering Squadron.