Airman McBride hailed a hero, honored at Maxwell

  • Published
  • By Rebecca Burylo
  • Montgomery Advertiser
Staff Sgt. Chester J. McBride was remembered Jan. 13  as a man who died a hero's death.

He died to save another.

That is the legacy McBride, 30, of Statesboro, Georgia, left for those who knew him best at Maxwell Air Force Base and Montgomery's law enforcement community. Military and local police officers joined McBride's friends and family at a memorial service held in his honor at Maxwell.

McBride was among six service members killed in a suicide bombing in Afghanistan on Dec. 21. He was assigned to the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, Detachment 405, at Maxwell before he deployed to Bagram Airfield in support of Operation Freedom Sentinel.

A solitary helmet rested atop an overturned rifle at the base on the stage in Polifka auditorium; a pair of combat boots stood empty in front, representing McBride's ultimate sacrifice. Several hundred men and women who came to pay their respects waited in line after the ceremony to salute their fallen brother in arms.

His parents, sister and brother-in-law were among family members who were honored guests at the ceremony.

He was trained as a federal combat agent to identify, exploit and neutralize criminal, terrorist and intelligence threats to the nation. McBride and five others who were part of the Expeditionary Detachment 2405 were on a routine foot patrol outside of Bagram when they were struck by an ambush attack and killed.

During the attack, McBride sustained the brunt of the blast, shielding his linguist and saving her life. He was awarded the Bronze Star with Valor, the Purple Heart and the Air Force Combat Action Medal for his bravery and heroism.

His actions come as no surprise to the commander of the 405th, Maj. Helen Stewart.

"He was the ideal special agent, the ideal non-commissioned officer. He was selfless and the embodiment of our core values of service before self," Stewart said. "He showed that up until the very last moment."

Known for his big personality and even bigger smile, McBride was a favorite among his commanders, fellow airmen and local law enforcement. He was an active member of the local FBI force and the state Joint Terrorism Task Force

"He always had a big smile, he was known across the base, across the community for his big smile, his positive attitude and his caring demeanor," Stewart added. "He was the guy you knew you could turn to ... he taught me how to be a wingman."

Several of his fellow agents provided encouraging remarks to the family, including Crystal Johnson.

"We all spent more time with each than with our own family," Johnson said. "He was the extra brother I never knew I needed ... we laughed with each other, laughed at each other and even got mad at each other, but at the end of the day we were always there for each other.

"Rest peacefully, but stay alive in our hearts forever and continue to give us one more reason to keep trying to make this world a better and safer place in and out of uniform," Johnson added.

Sammy Vuckovich, a retired detachment commander at OSI, and his family were close friends with McBride since they met him in 2012 and learned that they shared the same Christian faith. Vuckovich attended his funeral in Georgia and prepared the eulogy at the Maxwell event.

"Special agent Chester McBride immediately stuck out to me as this shining star destined to do great things. Little did I know just how great," Vuckovich said. "... He was taken far too soon."

McBride graduated from Statesboro  High School before attending Savannah State University and Valdosta State University, where he earned his master's degree. In 2008, he enlisted in the Air Force and served as a ground combat specialist and Fire Team leader with the 822nd Security Forces Squadron at Moody AFB, Ga.