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A national day for EOD

By Senior Master Sgt. Chris Schott 2nd Civil Engineer Squadron

The Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles depart "the wire" en-route to a 9-line Improvised Explosive Device call. The Joint explosives ordnance disposal Rapid Response Vehicle is tucked in behind a security element provided by the supported Army battalion. Unbeknownst to the vehicle crewmen, a violent extremist lies in wait, his hand holding two wires above a motorcycle battery. As the convoy passes the target location, the extremist touches the wire to the battery and the JERRV disappears into a cloud of dust, smoke and fire. Though fictional in nature, it is a scenario that has played out all too often in the Air Force Central Command area of operations.

On the grounds of the Naval School for EOD at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., a large white cenotaph, or "empty tomb," adorned with four bronze tablets representing each branch of service stands silently. Upon each bronze tablet are inscribed the names of the 256 EOD team leaders and team members who have made the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty. Of those 256 names, 77 were lost during Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom. The Air Force shouldered the loss of 12 of those fallen comrades. Sadly, those numbers continue to rise and 14 Air Force EOD servicemembers have made the ultimate sacrifice.

I recently had the honor and privilege of attending the annual EOD Memorial Ceremony in May. This year 15 new names were added to the tablets: five Soldiers, eight Marines, and two Airmen. Senior Airman Michael J. Buras, deployed to Kandahar from Nellis AFB, Nev., was killed as a result of an IED detonation Sept. 21, 2010, and Senior Airman Daniel J. Johnson, deployed to Kandahar from Vandenberg AFB, Calif., was killed when insurgents attacked his unit with an IED Oct. 5, 2010. The ceremony was a solemn occasion to honor the sacrifice of those lost warriors and a chance to celebrate their lives devoted to a cause greater than their own. Handshakes of friendships rekindled and laughs of stories of the fallen were exchanged while tears were shed for those lost. Meanwhile, families and friends made rubbings of the plaques to add to their cherished memories.

In recognition of those sacrifices, Florida republican representative Virginia (Ginny) Brown-Waite, introduced House Resolution 1294 to the second session of the 111th Congress. House Resolution 1294 was titled "Expressing support for designation of the first Saturday in May as National Explosive Ordnance Disposal Day to honor those who are serving and have served in the noble and self-sacrificing profession of Explosive Ordnance Disposal in the United States Armed Forces."

The bill surmises that, "Whereas the bomb and mine disposal profession was created in April 1941; Whereas members of Explosive Ordnance Disposal organizations perform a dangerous and selfless task often without recognition, risking their lives on behalf of the United States; Whereas the United States will forever be in debt to personnel in the profession of explosive ordnance disposal for their bravery and sacrifice in times of peace and war; Whereas people in the United States should express their recognition and gratitude for members of the Explosive Ordnance Disposal profession; and Whereas the first Saturday in May would be an appropriate date to observe as National Explosive Ordnance Disposal Day: Now, therefore, be it resolved, that the House of Representatives supports the designation of National Explosive Ordnance Disposal Day to honor those who are serving and have served in the noble and self-sacrificing profession of Explosive Ordnance Disposal in the United States Armed Forces."

Having easily passed through the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, the resolution was unanimously passed. The first Saturday in May now corresponds with the annual EOD Memorial Ceremony.

In marking this sacred day for EOD personnel past and present, Reverend Carl Bergstrom wrote the following EOD prayer:

"Lord of power and might, whose mercy is everlasting, guard and guide those who place their lives in the balance to ensure the safety of those nearby. Look with favor upon those with the prowess and skill to disarm explosive devices, render them safe, and remove from others the threat of harm. Bless those who have been set apart by this hazardous duty, and give support to their families and loved ones who wait through each tense call. Receive into eternal rest those who have given their lives and bring healing to those who mourn. Grant that in the EOD family there may be unity of spirit for the well being of all. To your glory with grateful hearts we thank you loving God. Amen."

The realist in me accepts that these will not be the last, but I pray each day that we never have to add another name to that distinguished list, we honor not only each May, but every day. May those lost, rest in peace amongst their fallen brothers and sisters.