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This man had two dimes.

Then a soldier gave him a nickel and he had a paradigm shift.  Just goes to show how close you can be to it... and not notice it  until you literally stumble upon it.  Welcome aboard, Mr. Perez - and thank you for your service, too.  From CJTF 101 Public Affairs.

Commentary: Ramp ceremony changes civilian’s perspective

Written by Juan Perez Task Force Falcon Saturday, 19 February 2011 22:45

PARWAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan -- Working at a major military airfield in Afghanistan, I used to hate announcements for ramp closures. A ramp closure announcement is a notice that a portion or all of the access points to an airfield will be closed. They delay aircraft from take off and landing.

If personnel are leaving or arriving at our base, we could not drive our all-terrain vehicles to pick them up or drop them off at the terminals. I even thought the ramp freezes were the Air Force’s way to get at us because it seemed at times we were flying more aircraft than they were.

That all changed one morning when I went by our hangar to see if our aircraft departed before a scheduled ramp closure, and I came upon a ceremony for three fallen Soldiers.

Everything was conducted with military precision. Soldiers were paying their respects to the passing caskets. It was a rare silence in a normally very noisy place. The solemnity of the occasion kept me riveted where I stood. It felt as if everything surrounding the ceremony took on the solemnity of the moment, even the towering mountains stood at attention.

Into the belly of a big aircraft they went, one by one, with the flag of the country they loved enough to give their lives for neatly draped over each casket. If what was before me didn’t change how I felt about the ramp closures, what happened next definitely did.

As the ceremony ended, many Soldiers from the unit and others who worked with these heroes walked toward the aircraft. A few of us were left behind.

I slowly worked my way to our hangar and as I approached, I saw a Soldier sitting where our mechanics normally work. Coming closer I realized I didn’t recognize this Soldier.

Why would he be in our area? Our mechanics weren’t there. I thought I should check this guy out.

I approached him and said, “Hi.” He was looking down, and I thought he didn’t hear me, so I spoke louder.

“Hey, how are you?” I asked.

That was when he looked up and softly said, “I’ve been better, but what can you do.”

I noticed he was crying. I put together the rest of the story without any more words.

I will never know exactly what a Soldier feels when a buddy dies, but I came closer to understanding it right then and there. I couldn’t say a word, and my vision started to get blurry as I gave this young man the space he needed to be with his thoughts.

Our modest hangar became a chapel.

If that Soldier reads this note, I want him to know that because of him, my appreciation of the brotherhood units in combat form grew immensely. Every commander must be proud to have such Soldiers in their units.

Although it is my wish that we have no more fallen Soldier ceremonies, if there are any, for the time I have left on this deployment, I will appreciate the reasons for ramp closures. I want to do my part to honor these Soldiers the way they deserve.

Note: Juan Perez is a U.S. Army civilian working as as Task Force ODIN-A (Observe, Detect, Identify, Neutralize – Afghanistan) Buckeye Site lead and Army Geospatial Center Afghanistan Representative, 10th Combat Aviation Brigade, TF Falcon.