MOUNDSVILLE, W.Va. — Friends, family members and government officials met Wednesday to honor the life of a fallen local hero.
Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin ordered U.S. and West Virginia flags lowered from dawn to dusk Wednesday in honor of memorial services for Air Force Sgt. Ryan Hammond. Hammond was one of six U.S. airmen killed when a military transport plane crashed in Afghanistan. Five civilians also were killed.
According to the 455th Air Expeditionary Wing of Bagram Airfield, the C-130J Super Hercules they were on crashed shortly after takeoff from Jalalabad Airfield in eastern Afghanistan.
The son of Dave and Kathy Hammond, Ryan Hammond lived in Texas with his wife, Holly and their dog, Dug. A 2007 graduate of John Marshall High School joined the United States Air Force upon finishing school, beginning as an F-15 avionics technician at Tyndall and Seymour Johnson Air Force Bases in Florida. After six years of service, Hammond became a loadmaster at Dyess Air Force Base in Texas in March of 2014 as part f the 39th Airlift Squadron.
Along with 150 close friends and family members, Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., Delegate Mike Ferro, D-Marshall, and a representative from Tomblin’s office attended a private morning service for Hammond on Wednesday. A public memorial followed in the afternoon and evening.
At the Hammond family’s request, Patriot Guard Riders from the region attended both services. The federally registered non-profit attends the funeral services of service men and women as invited guests of the family.
According to Susan Whitlatch, a Marshall County resident and District 6 ride captain for the organization, the group of motorcyclists come to each service to show respect for fallen heroes and shield mourning families from interruptions and protests.
“We determined when our Vietnam vets came back that no one should have to come home that way,” Whitlatch said. “We can not do enough for a military. Ryan knew what he was doing when he left high school and wanted to serve and honor our country, which he did so bravely.”
Ferro said attending the service was a great honor.
“The memorial was sad and somber but was also such a beautiful display of Ryan’s life,” he said. “I feel honored to share this day with his family.”
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