Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Air Force Senior Airman Mark A. Forester

Remember Our Heroes

Air Force Senior Airman Mark A. Forester, 29, of Tuscaloosa, Ala.

SrA Forester was assigned to the 21st Special Tactics Squadron, Pope Air Force Base, N.C.; died Sept. 29, 2010 while conducting combat operations in Uruzgan province.

Senior Airman Mark A. Forester died in the Uruzgan province Sept. 29 while conducting combat operations in the area. The 29-year-old worked with the 21st Special Tactics Squadron of Pope Air Force Base, N.C.

Forester, of Tuscaloosa, Ala., was a devout Mormon with a close-knit family, said his friend Michael Andrew. The airman also believed he was put on earth to defend the U.S.

Relatives say that Mark Andrew Forester had accepted the reality that his commitment to the United States was going to keep him away from the Crimson Tide’s upcoming football season.

Forester, a University of Alabama graduate and senior airman with the U.S. Air Force, was supposed to return home to Haleyville next month and had already made plans to attend the Iron Bowl in November with his family. Instead, Forester, 29, died Wednesday in combat in Afghanistan.

His family described him as good brother and a gentle friend. Forester’s brother, Thad, said he couldn’t reveal many of the details surrounding his brother’s death.

“He went down fighting,” Thad Forester said.

Thad Forester, 33, said he was concerned when his little brother announced that he would be taking his finance degree not to Wall Street but to war. “I supported him,” Thad Forester said. “I mean, somebody has got to do it — I’d just rather it not be my brother.

“But he was prepared for the challenges and he knew that he was putting his life seriously on the line.”

He recalled the day that he and his brother bought a camouflage hat with an Alabama script “A” from Woods & Water. Thad Forester said his brother didn’t buy it for his first tour of duty as an Air Force combat controller — a highly trained, skilled position that demands entry into hostile enemy territories. “He just got it because he liked it,” Thad Forester said.

But Mark Forester found a way to work an item representing the Crimson Tide into his combat wardrobe on a regular basis, Thad Forester said.

Thad Forester said his little brother loved his job. “He loved shooting, he loved swimming and he loved jumping out of planes — it was just things that he loved,” he said. “And he was able to stay calm in extremely stressful situations.”

Mark Forester was living with Thad in Tuscaloosa, which ultimately led to him following Thad to the university.

Both the Foresters met Michael Andrew, a fellow UA student who became a professional photographer.

Andrew wrote a memorial to Mark Forester on his website, "First let me say to those of you who read this blog who know Mark, I apologize to you if this is the first time you are hearing the bad news.

For the rest of you who never met him, Mark was one of my very best friends and was stationed at FOB Cobra in Afghanistan as an Air Force Combat Controller embedded with a Green Beret unit. I was able to see him immediately before he left for combat, and had the privilege to do a farewell shoot with his family before he left.

I still do not have all the details of what happened, but my understanding is that Mark and his unit were ambushed and a terrific gun fight ensued. Mark was struck twice, once in the chest and once in the forearm, possibly from the same round, and eventually died of his injuries. I was also told that he died while fighting. Two other members of his squad were also killed. This is all I know right now.

This post is a tribute to Mark, as well as all of the other family members and friends we all have lost fighting for our country. I want everyone know what an absolutely amazing person he was and what a tremendous sacrifice he paid for the freedoms we enjoy. The price is paid with the very best blood our country has to offer and Mark is a perfect example of this.

Of all the people I know, I cannot think of a more kind, generous and well rounded person I have ever met. He was a true friend, slow to temper, always reliable and extremely fun to be around. We spent so much time playing Halo on Xbox that I am sure I will be in some kind of trouble when I stand before the judgement bar. One night, we had played so much that instead of going home, I crawled over to some random corner in his living room and slept there for the night- not even realizing what I was doing. There are so many memories of him working out, playing flag football, going to Chick-Fil-A, talking for hours about women, scuba diving, church, school and just about anything else 2 young men might talk about- all of which I will treasure forever. Any person who does not have a friend like Mark was to me is really getting a raw deal in life.

Mark's family, including his brother Thad and his parents are as good as they come. My heart is aching for them and I want them to know that my thoughts and prayers are with them, how much I love them as well as Mark. I spent most of the afternoon and evening down by the beach crying & thinking about Mark, and how much he will be missed. On one hand, this is extremely painful and on the other, I cannot express how proud I am of him. We had many talks about the dangers involved- Mark absolutely knew what he was getting into and that there was a chance he may not come back. He went anyway. Brave as hell. I have so much admiration and respect for him. Losing Mark has been a reality check for me, in a good way. I imagine that over the next short period I will be making some changes in my life, mostly for the better, just knowing him and what he gave up. It is a true pleasure and humbling honor to have known him. I miss him so much already and would give anything to have him back. Words cannot express how thankful I am to you Mark and I know I am better person for having known you.

Today, on September 29th, 2010- a great man named Mark Forester paid the ultimate price for you and me, defending and protecting the Great Country of America. Mark is, as so many others are, a True American Hero.

Rest in peace brother and God be with you till we meet again."

Andrew said his friend was a devout Mormon who did not smoke or drink.

It was the warrior part of him that led Mark Forester to choose one of the most grueling military disciplines available.

Forester’s death in Afghanistan follows those of Senior Airman Daniel R. Sanchez, a combat controller who died Sept. 16 conducting combat operations, and Senior Airman Michael J. Buras, a bomb technician killed Sept. 21 in a bomb explosion. Senior Airman James A. Hansen, an airfield management operations coordinator, died in Iraq on Sept. 15 during a controlled detonation.

Forester and Sanchez will be honored during the Walk for the Fallen, an 860-mile trek beginning Oct. 9 from Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, to Hurlburt Field, Fla.

The walk originally commemorated 12 fallen special tactics airmen, but Forester and Sanchez were added after their deaths. Each of the 15 active-duty airmen scheduled to participate in the walk will carry 50-pound rucksacks and batons, each with the name of one of the 14 fallen airmen.

Master Sgt. Kenneth Huhman, one of the event’s organizers and chief of the combat control selection course at Lackland, said deaths often hit home in such a small career field.

One of the walking airmen will escort Forester’s remains home, and another was close to Sanchez. But Huhman said the deaths will help motivate the airmen honoring fallen colleagues.

“We’re always going to want to be motivated and remember the guys we lost,” he said. “The fact we lost them so close to the walk, it does give a little additional inspiration.”

Reached Thursday night in Haleyville, Ala., Forester's aunt, Carolyn Forester, said he joined the Air Force because he wanted to serve his country and that he loved the work. His parents were at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware on Thursday waiting for his return, she said.

Air Force Senior Airman Mark A. Forester was killed in action on 9/29/10.


Anonymous said...

I just viwed the story of Mark Forester on Lifetimes's Coming Home. I was so moved by what I heard and saw that I can"t go to sleep. I am so grateful that he was profiled on television. It makes me sad that we don't know about people like him. What a huge loss he was,and I just wanted to say something somehow, so I googled his name after the show. To him and his family and the pilot who brought the flag to his parents, I am so touched and feel so much. Thank you.
Patti Conger, Ventura California Much Love

Ms.Tavarez said...

Patti the same here. I am watching it now. War is so stupid and it makes me feel so angry. My condolences to his family. They raised a true hero! Yes Mom, he is truly loved by all of us.

Anonymous said...

I just saw his story on lifetime coming home, I have never had to leave a comment over the web especially for someoneIi never met but his story touched me so much i ended up googling him, my heart goes out to his parents and family,I could imagine what they were going through having lost my dad recently and still grieving from the loss, I can only pray that they find peace some how and may his soul RIP.