Adam Servais Awarded the Bronze Star Medal for Valor

Senior Airman Servais was in the rocky Uruzgan province in south-central Afghanistan on Aug. 19, 2006, when the convoy he was traveling with came under heavy fire from insurgents. 

An estimated 100 or more concealed enemies began shooting from three sides. Immediately, Servais turned his Humvee’s machine gun toward enemy fire and began shooting. Rounds began exploding near the convoy. Servais turned over responsibility for the machine gun to another team member and began directing close air support to help suppress the insurgents. As he was talking with pilots overhead and spotting targets for them, a rocket-propelled grenade exploded behind Servais, killing him. Servais was a member of a Special Forces operational detachment that was working with Afghan National Army soldiers and Afghan police. He was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star Medal for Valor on Aug. 25, 2006.

    Senior Airman Adam Servais Rememembered as Hero

ONALASKA, Wis.  The crowd of more than 1,000 at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church stood and joined in a full-throated version of “Here I Am Lord,” launching the melody into the vaulted wooden rafters.

Six pallbearers, dressed in navy-blue Air Force blazers adorned with medals, guided Senior Airman Adam P. Servais’ silver casket down the center aisle. Another airman followed, clutching a folded U.S. flag against his chest with white gloves.

Servais, 23, of Onalaska, died Aug. 19 in a mountainous area near the village of Yakhdan in southern Afghanistan. His convoy of U.S. Army Special Forces and Afghan army soldiers was ambushed by more than 100 enemy troops.

Amid a fierce exchange of fire, Servais was hit and killed by a rocket-propelled grenade, one of four U.S. military deaths that day throughout the country.
At the funeral, his casket passed about 50 airmen from Hurlburt Field in Florida, home base of Servais’ squadron.  They flew in for the funeral and burial on C-130s. All wore navy blue dress uniforms, with silver Air Force chevrons on the left sleeve. Many sobbed as the casket passed.

Standing to the left were at least five rows of Servais’ family, many from the Coulee Region, some from as far away as Nevada, Montana, California and South Carolina.

“God’s house is a house of heroes,” said the Rev. Patrick Umberger, addressing the mourners. “Let us honor and acknowledge the heroes here today.”

Applause like thunder shook the church. After 30 seconds, the crowd rose and made it a standing ovation, all eyes focused on the seated airmen, an ocean of blue in the front of the church.

“We lost a great friend, we lost a great family member,” Umberger continued. “We know how much Adam loved his family at home, and when he died, he was with his extended (Air Force) family, whom he also loved and trusted.”

One of them, Senior Airman Christopher Tallent, roomed with Servais while on base in Florida and served with him in Afghanistan, eventually escorting his body home. He eulogized him as “one of the happiest people I had the pleasure to know,” someone who “could take any situation and make a smile out of it.”

He then read from a letter sent from Staff Sgt. Chris (last name omitted for security purposes), who went through Combat Controller training with Servais and is still serving in Afghanistan.

The letter recounted childhood memories Servais shared with him: “his mom forcing piano lessons on him when all he wanted to do was play hockey, the truck he and his dad built together.”

Matt Hoehn, a classmate and hockey teammate of Servais’ throughout childhood, read a letter from his father, John “Whitey” Hoehn, who coached a lot of the youth hockey teams. He remembered Servais as someone happy to play defense, who had no interest in scoring goals, and who never shied away from a challenge, or a fight.

“You embodied my kind of hockey player,” Hoehn said. “Physical, smashmouth, in-your-face.”

After the funeral, the mourners processed east on Main Street to Onalaska city cemetery. A crowd of about 250 motorcyclists in black leather jackets and chaps, members of the Patriot Guard riders, lined the streets holding hundreds of U.S. flags. All was silent, except the rustling of flags in the wind, the clucking of heels, the mumbling of babies.

“It’s an honor to make these guys know we care,” said Karen Fernstaedt, who drove her Harley Davidson in with seven others from Sauk Prairie, Wis., leaving at 5:30 a.m.

At the burial, a bugler played taps, airmen fired a 21-gun salute, and Servais was posthumously awarded a Purple Heart and Bronze Star with Valor. His mother, Sue, was presented with a triangle, folded U.S. flag, which had draped her son’s casket.

Servais’ sister, Laura Ley, said she’ll especially miss her brother’s “infectious smile,” but said there was some comfort knowing how much he loved his military career.

“He loved what he did, and he knew the risks of it,” she said.

During his eulogy, Tallent said that Servais and the bodies of the three other U.S. military personnel killed Aug. 19 were sent home by hundreds of U.S. service members, who lined a makeshift parade route for them.

Once the bodies were secure on a C17 cargo plane, bound for U.S. soil, the pilot fired up the engine and prepared for takeoff. Suddenly, a vicious duststorm kicked up, which would delay the flight for three hours.

“All I could think (during the delay),” Tallent said, “was that Adam still didn’t want to leave the fight.”

About 40 folks from Hurlburt, including Major General Wurster (AFSOC Vice Commander), Col Brozenick (Wing Commander), Col Stratton, Col Rodriguez, Col Sherman and Col Wright, plus team mates and friends of Adam flew via a 3 week old C-130 (Brand New) to Wisconsin early Saturday morning.

We arrived early and drove by bus to the church. Onalaska is a small town, something you would see in a Norman Rockwell painting. I noticed immediately that Adam Servais' name was a lot of advertisement boards, scrolling electrical signs and anything else that would be used for the public to see. We then began looking at other aspects of the small town, every American flag we seen was at half staff. We later found out that the Governor of the state mandated that the entire state will fly ol' glory at half staff in honor of Adam on that day.

Arriving at the church at 9am, we had plenty of time to pay our respects to Adam, looking at pictures of his boy hood, high school, family and military chapters. His closed casket was draped with the American flag, surrounded by beautiful flowers from all over the town and nation, to including from AST. (To who ever did the effort to make sure we sent flowers, thank you) Next to Adam was his parents, giving hugs and greetings to the team that traveled from Florida for the service. They were very grateful and asked to pass on their thank yous to all the Special Tactics members who could not attend.

We all sat together for the service, up front, taking up about six pews.  The Priest started the mass of by looking at us and announcing to the congregation: "We have heroes in the Lord's House!" With that the congregation stood up and gave us a standing ovation. Not a muscle moved from us, but the tears could not be stopped. A very touching mass was given ,with eulogies from Matt Mueller, and Chris Tallent, a very emotional, fitting tribute to Adam.

We left the church and started walking the .25 mile to the cemetery.  Nothing could of prepared us for what we seen when we turned the corner and started walking down Main Street. Lining both sides of Main Street, for the length of the entire walk, were citizens holding large American flags. Standing silently, saluting or hands on hearts. The local paper stated that there were a 1000 people there for Adam, I think they only counted the flags. We seen old vets with their VA hats on, saluting while holding a cane with tears rolling down their cheeks. We saw little kids looking straight ahead, saluting like they had practiced it all week long. Not one word was spoken. It was the longest walk I ever experienced.

During the grave side service, the Scott AFB Honor Guard did a great job with the 21 gun salute, flag folding and the last taps. Imagine the "1000" people with those 5 X 8 American Flags surrounding us during the ceremony, like a blanket, it was very comforting. Adam's parents were presented his Bronze Star with valor and the Purple Heart by Lt Col Ray, 23STS Commander.

I found out later that the Patriot Guard, a group that ensures no demonstrators interfere with the funeral, was responsible for the huge American Flags. No demonstrator, if there was one among us, made any effort to interfere.

After we said good bye to Adam, we had some time to mingle with Adam's community and his family. We then took the bus back to the airfield to climb aboard our brand new C-130. The plane would not start. For four hours the crew tried everything to kick the bird over, to include some type of dance that I've never seen before. We ended up staying the night at Volk Field, about an hour from the town. If you have a two star General and the Wing Commander with you, that bird had to be broke hard to keep them in Wisconsin over night. I think it was Adam just wanting to keep his team around a little while longer. We had another C-130 pick us up the next day, the Wing Commander told the crew to keep the engines running.

Bottom-line: The town of Onalaska gave Adam a fitting tribute, a Hero's welcome home.  Thanks for reading my weekend experience. It was something I'll remember the rest of my life.

Regards, Joe ********


8/25/2006 - HURLBURT FIELD, Fla -- A memorial service was held here Aug. 25 to honor a Combat Controller killed in combat in Afghanistan less than a week ago.

Senior Airman Adam P. Servais, 23rd Special Tactics Squadron, was assigned to a special forces operational detachment in support of Operation Enduring Freedom when he was killed by enemy fire in the Oruzgan Province Aug. 19.

Freedom Hangar, where the memorial was held, was a sea of scarlet berets as members of the special tactics community gathered to pay their respects for their fallen brother.

"Adam loved what he did," said Col. Marc Stratton, 720th Special Tactics Group commander. "Adam died performing his duties as the Combat Controller, returning fire, while controlling air support overhead."

Airman Servais earned his reputation as a controller early. Although he was less than a year out of special tactics training, he was hand-picked to serve as the joint terminal attack controller for the elite special operations team.

"He was lethal in the battlefield and his actions saved his teammates lives," said Lt. Col. Eric Ray, 23rd STS commander. "His courage in the face of the enemy was an example of Adam's strength."

Tech. Sgt. Brad Reilly, a fellow Combat Controller and noncommissioned officer in charge of the Blue Team in the 23rd STS, honored Airman Servais by reading excerpts of e-mails from those who served with him while deployed, summing it up with his own thoughts.

"We understand, absolutely, the risks involved in what we do, and we accept them," he said. "We focus on doing our best work in the worst of scenarios.

"In my world, actions speak louder than words. I truly believe that Adam Servais would want us to hear the story of his actions engaged in ground combat against enemies of the United States. He would want us to stand a little bit taller, taking great pride in the fact that he did not go gently, that he fought hard and true until the very end. He would want no pity, no sympathy and would laugh at the first mention of the word 'hero.'

"And I imagine he'd wonder why the hell we're here in this hangar, and not out training for the next fight," he said. 

Airman Servais, 23, volunteered to serve as the rear machine gunner in a convoy consisting of U.S. Special Operations Forces, Afghan National Army and Afghan Security Guard elements.

His patrol was ambushed by an estimated 100 anti-coalition militia as they traveled through the mountainous terrain, receiving small arms, rocket propelled grenade and sniper fire as close as 440 yards away on three sides.

As things heated up, Airman Servais delegated his machine gun duties to another crew member to free him up to direct close air support to suppress the enemy. He continued to engage the enemy while simultaneously directing close air support.

As he was talking to the pilots, an RPG exploded behind him, killing him.

"SrA Servais made the ultimate sacrifice for his country. We can ask no more than that," Lt. Gen. Mike Wooley, Air Force Special Operations Command commander, said in a letter read to the 23rd and 720th at the memorial. "We will always remember him along with the other warriors who have fallen while protecting our freedom. We will mourn his loss, we will honor his memory and we will miss his smile."

Adam Servais, Far left............. Derek Argel, Far Right       R.I.P. Brothers
Proud to be a part of the CCT Brotherhood, in his own words!

CHEERS to Adam "SURGE", Car Bombs for ALL,
a drawing by Jeff Clemens

      Servais Way, Leading the way for future Combat Controllers

The $7.8 million, 50,000 square foot Crate Advanced Skills Training Center was formally dedicated to Sergeant Crate. The center's auditorium was dedicated to Captain Fresques and the aquatics facility to Captain Argel.

The street adjacent to the facility was named Servais Way, in honor of Senior Airman Adam Servais who was killed Aug. 19, 2006, while engaged with enemy fighters in southern Afghanistan.

"It means a lot to us that the street is forever named after Adam," said his mother, Sue Servais of Onalaska, Wis. "When you go through this grief and loss, sometimes you want the world to stop just for you, but everybody's lives go on. This is a way to keep his memory alive."

Sue Servais, mother of fallen Air Force Combat Controller Senior Airman Adam Servais, embraces Lt. Col. Eric Ray, commander of the 23rd Special Tactics Squadron, during a street-naming ceremony at Hurlburt Field, May 30, 2007.  Airman Servais' father, Pete, looks on.  Airman Servais was killed in a firefight in Afghanistan in August, 2006.

Cheers, to our boy's!