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Memorial Day ceremony honors CAFB graduate

Senior Airman Jacob Bolton, Columbus Air Force Base Honor Guardsman, unveils the name of a former 14th Flying Training Wing Airman during a formal Memorial Day Retreat Ceremony May 25, 2017, at the Gene Smith Plaza on
Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi. One side of the plaza wall displays the names of previously assigned Columbus AFB pilots who were killed in military aircraft accidents. Capt. Jordan Pierson, a Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training Class 12-07 graduate, died Oct. 2, 2015, in a tragic C-130J Super Hercules crash in Jalalabad Airfield, Afghanistan. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Keith Holcomb)

Senior Airman Jacob Bolton, Columbus Air Force Base Honor Guardsman, unveils the name of a former 14th Flying Training Wing Airman during a formal Memorial Day Retreat Ceremony May 25, 2017, at the Gene Smith Plaza on Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi. One side of the plaza wall displays the names of previously assigned Columbus AFB pilots who were killed in military aircraft accidents. Capt. Jordan Pierson, a Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training Class 12-07 graduate, died Oct. 2, 2015, in a tragic C-130J Super Hercules crash in Jalalabad Airfield, Afghanistan. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Keith Holcomb)

A two-ship T-1A Jayhawk formation performs a flyover to mark the end of the Memorial Day Retreat ceremony May 25, 2017, at Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi. Capt. Jordan Pierson, who died Oct. 2, 2015, and whose name was added to the memorial wall, flew the T-1 as a student in Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training Class 12-07. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman John Day)

A two-ship T-1A Jayhawk formation performs a flyover to mark the end of the Memorial Day Retreat ceremony May 25, 2017, at Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi. Capt. Jordan Pierson, who died Oct. 2, 2015, and whose name was added to the memorial wall, flew the T-1 as a student in Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training Class 12-07. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman John Day)

Senior Airman Luis Serrano Solano, Columbus Air Force Base Honor Guardsman, begins to play Taps during the Memorial Day Retreat Ceremony May 25, 2017, on Columbus AFB, Mississippi. The Memorial Day Ceremony honored our Nation’s fallen airmen, soldiers, sailors, and marines, and included a special Memorial Service for Capt. Jordan B. Pierson. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman John Day)

Senior Airman Luis Serrano Solano, Columbus Air Force Base Honor Guardsman, begins to play Taps during the Memorial Day Retreat Ceremony May 25, 2017, on Columbus AFB, Mississippi. The Memorial Day Ceremony honored our Nation’s fallen airmen, soldiers, sailors, and marines, and included a special Memorial Service for Capt. Jordan B. Pierson. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman John Day)

COLUMBUS AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. -- Though the day was bright and warm, the crowd was quiet and somber during a Memorial Day ceremony at Gene Smith Plaza in front of the wing headquarters building here May 25, 2017.

In addition to honoring all military members who gave their lives in defense of the nation, the ceremony also paid special tribute to Capt. Jordan Pierson, a Columbus Air Force Base Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training Class 12-07 graduate.

After graduating SUPT, Pierson was assigned to Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, to fly the C-130J Super Hercules aircraft as a member of the 317th Airlift Group. He died Oct. 2, 2015, in a tragic C-130J crash at Jalalabad Airfield, Afghanistan. He was the Aircraft Commander of TORQE 62 and was serving his second deployment to Afghanistan.

Pierson’s name was added to the Gene Smith Plaza memorial wall during the event.

“Captain Pierson is just one of the many service members – brave Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen – who died protecting their country and all it stood for,” said Col. Douglas Gosney, 14th Flying Training Wing Commander. “They died defending a way of life ... the well-being of their families, the future of their children, for free choice, moral values and the responsibility we all share in a democratic society.”

Pierson’s family was also honored during the ceremony.

“Not only do we pay tribute to Captain Pierson, we also honor his family and friends, those left behind, those who paid a very personal price for us and our nation,” Gosney said. “On behalf of all those present today and the entire Team BLAZE: We are humbled by your sacrifice, inspired by your resilience and grateful for your continued service to your communities.”

The commander then reminded the crowd of what Pierson’s and all other lost members’ sacrifices means.

“The sacrifices like those of TORQE 62 – along with a thousand others -- are strengthening new allies in the war on terror, and bringing hope, stability and progress to a troubled region,” Gosney continued, “and, ultimately will lift a terrible threat from the lives of our children and grandchildren.”

Lt. Col. Joseph Framptom, 40th Airlift Squadron Commander, was stationed at Dyess with Pierson and deployed with him on his first deployment to Afghanistan. He spoke about Pierson’s insatiable thirst for knowledge, work ethic and dedication.

“Jordan was on a fast track to be an instructor pilot, but he never made it because of the tragic accident in Afghanistan,” Framptom said. “Despite that, there’s still quite a few things we can learn from the example that Jordan set and from Jordan himself.

“First of all, always strive to be the best that you can be, because Jordan did. Always learn as much as you can about the mission you’re tasked to do, bring your A game every day, because Jordan did. And finally, in our business, we can never lose sight of the fact that sometimes even very simple mistakes can have tragic consequences.”

Pierson’s name joins the name of 84 other Columbus AFB pilot training graduates who have died in military aircraft accidents since 1972.

First Lt. Matt Herten, 48th Flying Training Squadron Instructor Pilot and narrator for the ceremony, also talked about the history of Memorial Day, which is believed to have begun in 1866 in Columbus, Mississippi, when a group of Southern women placed flowers on the graves of Union soldiers.

“News of this gesture swept the nation,” Herten said. “In 1868, Gen. John A. Logan, national commander of a veteran’s group called the Grand Army of the Republic, ordered his troops to observe May 30 as a special day ‘for decorating the graves of the comrades who died in defense of their country and whose bodies lie in almost every village or hamlet churchyard in the land.’”

In 1882, Decoration Day was re-designated Memorial Day, saluting not only civil war dead, but the fallen warriors of all conflicts.

The ceremony also included a 21-gun salute, the playing of Taps and a T-1A Jayhawk formation flyover.

“On behalf of a grateful nation and wing, we salute our fallen comrades and pledge that we will never forget,” Herten said.