Memorial service honors fallen Khobar Towers Airmen

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Rebeckah Medeiros
  • 23d Wing Public Affairs

Members from the 71st Rescue Squadron, 38th RQS and 41st RQS from Moody Air Force Base, Georgia, came together at Patrick Space Force Base, Florida, to memorialize the 25th anniversary of the Khobar Towers bombing, hosted by the 920th Rescue Wing, June 25, 2021.

On this day in 1996, there was a terrorist attack on a U.S. Air Force housing complex named Khobar Towers, in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. A truck filled with explosives detonated near the building causing injuries to approximately 400 people and killing 19 U.S. servicemembers.

“The cost to this nation and many others have been staggering,” said retired Col. Thomas Friers, the former 1st Rescue Group commander. “With the COVID-19 pandemic, and with our own nation so horribly divided, we can only wonder what the future holds. One thing that has never wavered during this tumultuous 25 years has been our love and respect for the Airmen we lost and honor here today.”

Family members of the deceased Airmen were greeted with love and open arms. There was a static display of an HC-130J available for family members to explore and base leadership spent time to pay their respects to the family members.

“Five of the Airmen killed in the bombing were members from the 71st Rescue Squadron, stationed at Patrick AFB, as pararescue men,” said Tech. Sgt. Daniel Hamblin, a 71st RQS loadmaster. “The squadron split off and is now stationed at Moody AFB. We are here today to pay our respects to the squadron that we were once a part of.”

The crowd gathered for the remembrance ceremony, cherishing the time to reflect and acknowledge the courage, boldness and commitment of the deceased.

“Today we live by that same motto that they upheld, just like those that came before them and just like those that will follow us,” said Col. John Dobbin, the 920th Rescue Wing commander. “These things we do, that others may live.”

Two rows of chairs lined the stage facing the audience, with a ceremonial flag folded on each seat. These chairs were set to honor those killed in action at Khobar Towers, while supporting overseas contingency operations, on June 25, 1996.

“Let us remember also the men and women killed in action in all wars and branches of service that are too often forgotten,” said Lt. Col. Alex Degracia, a 45th Force Support Squadron honor guardsman. “They believed in and fought for what our nation stands for and are not with us today, for they paid the ultimate sacrifice in defense of the freedoms we enjoy. Their fighting spirit lives on in our hearts forever and are a constant reminder that freedom is never free.”

The event concluded with the firing party releasing a three-rifle volley salute in memory of the fallen followed by taps performance symbolizing the death and remembrance of these Airmen.

Among the 19 lives lost, five served at then Patrick Air Force Base as part of the 71st Rescue Squadron that later moved to Moody AFB:

Capt. Christopher J. Adams of Massapequa Park, New York

Capt. Leland T. Haun of Colvis, California

Master Sgt. Michael G. Heiser of Palm Coast, Florida

Staff Sgt. Kevin J. Johnson of Shreveport, Louisiana

Airman 1st Class Justin R. Wood of Modesta, California