The Last Ride
(May 21, 2011)
AIR FORCE BASE, Guam (AFNS - 5/18/2011) -- I handed a coin
to the driver saying, "You are taking my brother-in-law on
his last ride. I don't want you to forget this." |
one who knew Maj. Philip Ambard will ever forget him. He was
born in Venezuela, but loved his adopted country
passionately. He joined the U.S. Air Force, quickly moving
up the ranks and being selected for senior master sergeant
before being commissioned. Phil had five kids, four of who
are now serving in the active duty military.
was a foreign language professor at the U.S. Air Force
Academy in Colorado Springs. He deployed to Afghanistan four
months ago to help train the Afghan Air Force. His life came
to an end in Kabul after a lone gunman opened fire, killing
nine Airmen. I suppose I had gotten used to deployments. We
are a military family with many deployments to the area of
responsibility. None of us ever thought we would have to pay
such a high price to defend freedom.
officiated dozens of funerals as a military chaplain, but I
have never seen anything as profound as what took place
during the days that followed Phil's death. His body came
into Peterson Air Force Base on a Wednesday. Our family was
met by the senior leadership of several surrounding military
communities. They knew our names and embraced us with tears.
I won't forget the two chaplains who stood beside us as we
received his body. Their steadfast presence was calm amidst
We followed his car in a bus down the
2-mile long corridor of Peterson AFB and out the front gate.
It was lined with hundreds of U.S. and allied military,
civilians and Patriot Guard riders. A rolling salute
followed his remains. I remember distinctly the elderly
woman with an oxygen tank standing in the cold, hand over
heart, giving honor to Phil as he passed by.
cadets led his remains through an arch of sabers into the
hallowed steel cathedral. His five children, my sister and
Brig. Gen. Dana Born (the Academy's dean of the faculty)
spoke eloquently of his life. The hundreds of mourners and I
shared that moment. We felt a connection to his life and to
his sacrifice as only military families can in the face of
U.S. Air Force Academy students and staff members line the street as the funeral procession for Maj. Philip Ambard, an Academy foreign language professor, passes by May 5, 2011, in Colorado Springs, Colo. Major Ambard, a father of five, lost his life while deployed to Kabul, Afghanistan. (U.S. Air Force courtesy photo)
When I led my family out to the hearse, I
remember thinking only of the gravesite, but I
was not ready for the drive. The driver, still
holding tightly to his coin, looked at me and
said, "We are taking a non-standard route to the
cemetery. I hope you don't mind."
pulled out onto the sun-draped Terrazzo where
students march and travel to and from class. But
today was not a day of coming and going. Today
they lined his route. A silent field of blue
with proud, slow salutes walked beside us as
they said goodbye to their beloved professor.
His life and his death would not be forgotten.
His lessons will continue.
dies in combat, we all have suffered profoundly.
It is in tragedy that I look for hope in knowing
that, like the disciples on the road to Emmaus,
stands beside me even when I don't know that he
By USAF Chaplain (Capt.) David Leonard|
Air Force News
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