LOCATION - Flanders poppies, also known as American Legion poppies,
are long-associated symbols of the sacrifices made in past wars,
because they grow naturally in conditions of disturbed earth.
Memorial Day, once named Decoration Day, is observed the last
Monday in May in honor of the men and women who died in the pursuit
of freedom and peace.
Staff Sgt. Devin Tiger, a 386th
Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron Military Working Dog handler,
joined the Air Force in September 2008 (image left with dog). On his
first day of technical training, Tiger's instructor brought the
young Airmen to the halls of the Security Forces Museum at Joint
Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas.
Tiger walked through the
history of security forces, from its inception to present day. Cases
were filled with military memorabilia and displays of newspaper
headlines led him through significant historical events. The walls
were decorated with photographs of comrades who paved their way
“You see all the names of the people who
died,” said Tiger. “Everyone sees a name. His name stuck out to me
because it said Tech. Sgt. Jason L. Norton from Miami, Oklahoma.”
Tiger and Norton never met, but instantly they shared a bond;
Oklahoma, their home state.
From the day Tiger saw Norton's name in the Security Forces
Museum, Tiger began walking a similar path as Norton, paving his way
from security forces member to MWD handler.
The gravestone of Tech. Sgt. Jason Norton and Staff Sgt. Brian
McElroy, assigned to the 3rd Security Forces Squadron at Elmendorf
Air Force Base, Alaska, stands at Arlington National Cemetery in
Virginia. On Jan. 22, 2006, Norton and McElroy were killed in action
when their vehicle struck an improvised explosive device while
conducting convoy escort duties in Iraq. (U.S. Air Force photos by Senior Airman Racheal E. Watson
with second image of the gravestone created on May 18, 2015)
Tech. Sgt. Jason Norton was assigned to the 3rd Security
Forces Squadron at Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska. On Jan.
22, 2006, Norton and a fellow Airman, Staff Sgt. Brian
McElroy, were killed in action when their vehicle struck an
improvised explosive device while conducting convoy escort
duties in Iraq.
Tiger started his career as a
security forces member. After four years he applied for the
position of MWD handler.
Norton served in the Air
Force for 14 years and was a K-9 handler for seven years.
Tiger and Norton shared a second bond and the connection
became more apparent; they were both handlers and they were
“Sgt. Norton, he was a good example to
follow and any of the K-9 handlers following his example
sets the tone,” said Tech. Sgt. Shannon Hutto, a 386th
Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron MWD section
noncommissioned officer in charge. “It's something to live
Norton was posthumously awarded the Bronze
Star and the Purple Heart. He also had at least six other
medals, including four Air Force achievement medals.
Just as the poppy, Tiger has grown from a disturbing
event in history, Norton's ultimate sacrifice. Norton
inspired Tiger from beyond the grave to pick up where he
left off. They did not have to meet, but they share an
unbreakable Oklahoma bond.
“For Memorial Day, Sgt.
Norton is the one I think about because of our home state,
Oklahoma,” said Tiger. “He exemplified the Oklahoma standard
of helping your neighbor at all costs.”
is more than one day to Tiger; it is every day.
By U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Racheal E. Watson
Comment on this article