Airmen in Afghanistan Honor Fallen Comrade
By Capt. Michael Meridith, USAF
Special to American Forces Press Service
BAGRAM AIR BASE, Afghanistan, Jan. 4, 2008 One airman’s commitment to a fallen comrade came full circle Jan. 1 with the dedication of a road in his honor here.
Air Force Tech. Sgt. Blaine Arsenault, 455th Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron, stands by a sign dedicating a road near the fuel farm at Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan, to the memory of fallen Air Force Master Sgt. Randy Gillespie, Jan. 1, 2008. Gillespie was Arsenault's first supervisor and a career fuels specialist who died July 9, 2007 near Herat, Afghanistan. Photo by Capt. Mike Meridith, USAF
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
The newly-named “Master Sgt. Randy Gillespie Way” owes its existence to the efforts of Air Force Tech. Sgt. Blaine Arsenault of the 455th Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron. Arsenault once worked for Gillespie, a career fuels specialist who was killed July 9, 2007, by small-arms fire near Herat, Afghanistan.
“Sergeant Gillespie was my first supervisor,” said Arsenault. “When I heard he died, I took it personally.”
Shortly after the news reached him, Arsenault found himself deployed to Afghanistan. Following a conversation with another Gillespie co-worker, Senior Master Sgt. Dean Abbott, he had an idea.
“After Sergeant Abbott and I talked, I was walking down Disney Drive (named after the late Army Spc. Jason Disney) and I thought about the road being named for a fallen soldier,” said Arsenault. “I knew they were building a new road by the fuel farm, and thought there was no better way to honor Sergeant Gillespie’s memory than to name it after him.”
After weeks of research and coordination, Arsenault’s efforts resulted in the naming of the road, including the Jan. 1 unveiling of a sign proclaiming “Gillespie Way” during a ceremony in the fallen airman’s honor.
“Master Sergeant Gillespie’s memory will live on,” Col. Barry Mines, 455th Expeditionary Mission Support Group commander, told the group gathered for the ceremony. “As our trucks drive around this fuel farm, the drivers will remember one of their very own fuels specialists who gave his life in the service of his country.”
Abbott, who knew Gillespie for 14 years, said the fallen airman would have appreciated the efforts on his behalf.
“He would’ve loved it. He was a people person,” Abbott said. “We as a people, a profession and an Air Force have lost a great human being. He was the whole package. He was all about helping, and he volunteered to come back to Afghanistan because he wanted to make a positive difference.”
Admiring the new road after the ceremony, Arsenault summed up the legacy of his fallen comrade. “He was a mentor, a wingman, a leader and a warrior,” he said. “He will not be forgotten.”
(Air Force Capt. Michael Meridith serves with 455th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs.)