UNDISCLOSED 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 through history.
“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 both trainers.
“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 up to.”
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.”
Memorial Day is more than one day to Tiger; it is every day.
By U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Racheal E. Watson
Provided through DVIDS
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