Following a legacy of valor

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Suzie Plotnikov
  • 81st Training Wing Public Affairs

In June of 2007, Air Force Office of Special Investigations Special Agent Ryan Balmer, died when his vehicle was struck by an improvised explosive device in Kirkuk, Iraq. His son, Airman Joshua Balmer, 737th Training Group basic military training graduate, followed in his father’s footsteps and joined the Air Force.

On Sept. 11, Airman Balmer graduated BMT here and the AFOSI Detachment 407 held a small ceremony afterward.

“I thought of him every single day,” said Airman Balmer. “Constantly knowing my dad was there the whole entire time made BMT easier and gave me more of a reason to focus and push when I wanted to give up.”

It has been 13 years since his dad passed away, but Airman Balmer still remembers the day he found out his father died very vividly.

“I was coming home from school with my sister, and I came around a little bend and saw my stepdads car,” said Airman Balmer. “I asked myself ‘Why was his car here?’ I walked inside, went upstairs and my mom was on my bed crying and told me my dad died in Iraq. I burst into tears and unfortunately after she said that everything just turned off. My emotions, interests and the shock of it was just too much.”

Before his father’s deployment, Airman Balmer recalled having a serious conversation with his father.

“I do remember sitting in the car with him and he told me he was going to Iraq,” said Airman Balmer. “He left all the time so when he said that, I didn’t realize this was different than all the other times he left. He said he might not come back and asked me how I would feel about that. At the time I said I would be fine but I didn’t grasp the gravity of it.”

Airman Balmer contributes his experiences with his father as one of the reasons why he wanted to join the Air Force since he was 8 years old.

“He was definitely a role model for me,” said Airman Balmer. “Everyone still references him and talks about him. Just what he means to me, on top of what he means to everyone else showed he had a lot of spirit and good will with him. The fact that people still remember and still care about him is amazing to me.”

Airman Balmer received a remembrance bracelet from a family friend, a plaque from the detachment, a memorial shirt, two coins and a letter from the Air Force Special Investigations Academy commander.

“It’s a privilege and a rare opportunity,” said Special Agent Shannon Robinson, AFOSI Detachment 407 commander. “We wanted to show Airman Balmer that OSI is here for him, that OSI recognizes the sacrifice his father made and because of his father we wanted to honor him in a milestone of his career.”

Family members, AFOSI leadership and legacy OSI members that served with agent Ryan Balmer were able to watch the ceremony through a Zoom meeting and speak a few words.

“We wanted to demonstrate that if something unfortunate were to happen, we will still look after you and your family at any and all opportunities,” said Robinson. “During this COVID-19 environment family members can’t be here to see him graduate. We recognize the importance that we step in to fill that gap, lift him up and let him know he’s doing a great job, a great thing and serving a greater purpose.”

Airman Balmer didn’t expect to have this kind of support on his BMT graduation day, but it solidified the reason why he wanted to join.

“The main reason why I wanted to join is the comradery that comes with the Air Force,” said Airman Balmer. “The personalities that everyone has are very well meshed, and I’d rather fight than have someone else fight for me. I want to be a guardian, protector, serve my country for what it has done for me and protect people so they don’t have to lose their lives.”