View Full Version : Freedomís price: far from free, but worth it

12-12-02, 07:38 AM
Released: Dec. 21, 2001

By Lt. Col. Tim Saffold
354th Fighter Squadron commander

DAVIS-MONTHAN AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. (ACCNS) -- Freedom isnít free. Freedom has a price. As American fighting men and women, we hear this so often that it almost becomes a clichť uttered whenever anyone wants to praise the virtues of military service.
Rather than inspire us, it quite often seems to numb us. We hear the words but we donít connect them to the sacrifices of warriors who have purchased our nationís heritage with hard work, sweat, and blood. Sadly, we fail to realize that we are those warriors connecting the past with the future by honoring the memories of those who have gone before us.
The price was very high for two good friends back in February 1991. One lived to tell his story; one died, but his story will never be forgotten.
I remember each of them quite well. One was a fellow flight commander; one was like a kid brother. I was a flight commander flying A-10s over the skies of Iraq in Operation Desert Storm. But this story isnít about me, it is about Storman and Oly -- two exceptional warriors who believed in America and were willing to lay it on the line for Kuwaitís freedom.
Stormanís story has almost a comical beginning. The night before he was shot down, my other two roommates and I had had enough of Stormanís incessant snoring. Louder and louder he snored until Dodger took a broom handle and swacked him with it a couple of times, exclaiming, "For Godís sake, man, knock it off or weíll all die from lack of rest!"
It worked! Uninjured, the mighty Storman ceased his snoring and slept for another four hours before hitting the floor to begin a three-sortie combat day. Little did we know that before dayís end, Dodger would regret broom-whipping the Storman. And our squadron would have to begin a quick recovery from the shock of losing one of our own.
Storman was working not too far from Al Jaber Air Base when he was hit. He almost made it to the border before ejecting; his wingman did not see him eject and assumed that he went in with the aircraft.
A massive combat search and rescue ensued. Hawgs from six different squadrons and Marine Corps AV-8 Harriers converged on his location. Through a hailstorm of anti-aircraft artillery fire, pilot after pilot flew low and hard in search of the Storman. No one made contact. Enemy forces covered the area. By nightfall, the decision was made to call the search off; Storman was gone, presumed dead.
The next day, we had a short memorial. We sang songs, threw nickels on the one clump of grass near our hooch, and listened to two different chaplains offer words of consolation. No amount of consolation could temper the rage, and we flew harder and meaner that we had ever flown before. The end was near. We could see the Iraqis breaking.
Then the combined air and ground operation exploded into Kuwait. Oly was a forward air controller flying in front of advancing U.S. and British armor forces to direct air strikes against Iraqi Republican Guard units in Northern Kuwait.
A hard-charging and fearless aviator, Oly flew every mission with a full sized American flag folded neatly in his cockpit. He was an aggressive perfectionist second to none. He knew quite well that the only way to end the war was to keep the pressure on and not let up until the enemy capitulated or was destroyed.
On this day, less than 12 hours before the cease-fire, Olyís OA-10 suffered heavy battle damage from an exploding enemy missile. He handled it in textbook fashion, defeating other enemy gunfire and missiles before reaching a safe area where other A-10s could join him to determine the extent of the damage. It was quite extensive.
Oly worked hard to get his aircraft into Saudi Arabia. There he made the decision to land his badly shot-up jet. He could have ejected, but he felt confident he could save his bird to fight another day. He almost made it too. Oly crashed on short final and a genuine American heroís life ended just hours before the war was finally decided.
But what happened to the Storman? Happily, we would see the Storman emerge from an Iraqi prison and return home to a triumphant reunion. Emaciated and injured from torture, Storman suffered many months to overcome the effects of his captivity. Speaking tirelessly to groups across the U.S., Stormanís message was loud and clear: Freedom isnít free; freedom has a price.
With the events of September 11 still fresh in our minds and with combat operations in full swing in Afghanistan, Stormanís and Olyís stories can inspire us in times of struggle. During these times, we turn to one another for strength, for courage and for inspiration to see our missions through.
Look around at all the faces at your base. Remember that we are the connection between the past and the future. It is our responsibility to ensure we honor the memory of those who have gone before us in order to bring honor to ourselves and to our nation. We do that through our commitment to each other and through exceptional performance of our duties.
Freedom isnít free. And because it isnít, it belongs to those who will guard it and cherish it in their hearts and with their lives. That means freedom belongs to you. Never forget it! And never let those who would try to take it from us forget that we will fight to ensure our freedom endures!

Courtesy Air Combat Command Public Affairs, United States Air Force, ACC/PAI