A Tuskegee Airman and other Airmen who died in Afghanistan and Vietnam are now memorialized in dormitories at Kirtland Air Force Base.
The base held a ceremony this week to name dormitories after Airmen who “embodied the core values of the Air Force.” All four individuals had ties to the Albuquerque base.
“Commemorating a building on an Air Force base is no small feat,” said Colonel Jason Vattioni, commander of the installation and the 377th Air Base Wing in Kirtland. , during his speech prepared during the ceremony. “This recognition is so important that once accomplished, it is etched as a permanent and lasting honor for as long as the base is active.”
Here is a brief description of the four people commemorated in Kirtland:
n Staff Sgt. John Allen. He was drafted into the Air Force out of high school and assigned to the Tuskegee Airmen of the 332 Fighter Wing, who were the nation’s first black military pilots. Allen served 27 years as a pilot and munitions technician. After retiring, he worked in Kirtland in the Weapons Safety Office with the 377th Air Base Wing. After his retirement, he often spoke publicly about historic Tuskegee Airmen.
n Airman 2nd Class George Bevich Jr. He enlisted in the Air Force in 1963 and was assigned to the 377th Air Police Squadron at an air base in Vietnam with his working dog, Rex. One night in December 1966, he spotted a force of Vietnamese soldiers attempting to enter the base. He sounded the alarm and began to fight the Viet Cong. Bevich died when his jeep was hit by a mortar and he was posthumously awarded the Silver Star. He was the first dog handler to die in Vietnam.
n Senior Airman Jason Cunningham. A native of Farmington, Cunningham served in the Navy before enlisting in the Air Force as a pararescueman, where he underwent a vigorous two-year training program before graduating from the Guardian Angel. Pararescue Schoolhouse in Kirtland. He died on March 4, 2002 during the Battle of Roberts Ridge in Afghanistan. The helicopter carrying Cunningham and his team of Rangers was struck and crashed into the side of a mountain. Cunningham remained in the burning fuselage tending to the wounded, repeatedly moving them to safer locations under enemy fire. He eventually suffered life-threatening injuries and continued to provide care and direct patient care as he lay dying. He was posthumously awarded the Air Force Cross. Cunningham was the first New Mexico native to die in the War on Terror.
n Staff Sgt. Anissa Sherro. She enlisted in the Air Force in 1992 and trained as a loadmaster. She was trained in special operations at the 58th Special Operations Wing in Kirtland. She became the first female airwoman killed in the War on Terror when her plane crashed while on a night mission to retrieve a Special Forces team. But the Air Force credited Shero with saving the lives of two soldiers.
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