By Staff Sgt. Julius Delos Reyes
50th Space Wing Public Affairs
Saying goodbye is always difficult.
But it was more than a necessity, it was an honor, as the men and women of Schriever Air Force Base bid goodbye to two of their own during a memorial service Dec. 3.
Airman 1st Class Edward Yu and Airman 1st Class Abtron “Tron” O’Neal, both from 3rd Space Operations Squadron, died in a vehicle accident Nov. 20 on Highway 94 in Colorado Springs, Colo.
“When I [learned about the accident], my heart sank,” said Lt. Col. Chadwick D. Igl, 3 SOPS commander. “Since that moment, my life has been a blur.”
The whole 3 SOPS family tackled this tragedy together with honor and dignity, Igl said. He added Team Schriever’s assistance, from the base leadership to the mortuary affairs, was greatly appreciated.
“As the 3 SOPS commander, I am honored to stand before you today to remember and celebrate these two young men,” he said.
The memorial service was organized by the 50th Space Wing Chaplain office. During the commemoration, Yu and O’Neal’s coworkers and classmates spoke of the moments they spent with the two Airmen as well as described how they were as service members, friends and coworkers.
“We are here today to remember two outstanding Airmen and great friends,” said Airman First Class Joseph Green, 3 SOPS Defense Satellite Communications System satellite vehicle operator and one of Yu’s friends. “Airman Yu was quiet and shy but once you got to know him, you’d see what an amazing person he was.
Green recounted how Yu once bought groceries for an entire cookout at technical school and he asked, “Why?”
“He told me he was just being nice,” Green said. “He hoped that other Airmen would see that and do it for others as well in the future. That’s just the way he was. Not only was he a great person but a great friend and a great fishing buddy. He’d do anything to help someone out.”
Airman First Class Juan Lopez, 3 SOPS Wideband Global SATCOM satellite vehicle operator, described O’Neal as one of the most unique guys he has ever met. Though they’ve only been acquaintances for eight months, he learned so much about O’Neal.
“He was a hilarious guy, making sure everyone was having fun,” Lopez said. “He was also really smart; he was the only enlisted Airman to graduate with distinguished honors in his class during technical school. I thought that was really impressive.”
Second Lt. Katherine Cousins, 3 SOPS DSCS satellite vehicle operator, was one of the students in the class and told a story about O’Neal’s professionalism and military bearing. Though O’Neal was the lowest ranking Airman in the class that consisted of five officers, he was able to finish at the top of his class.
“Airman O’Neal was one of the smartest individuals I have ever had the opportunity to work with,” Cousins said. “One time, someone came up to Airman O’Neal and asked, ‘How are you doing? Are you still showing up those lieutenants?’ He did. And it became a running joke.”
Finally, Igl narrated stories from O’Neal and Yu’s friends, coworkers and technical school leadership. He commended their professionalism and service as well as how Yu and O’Neal lived up to be American Airmen.
“I am sure both of them now have eternal life and they will both be greatly missed,” Igl said. “To both O’Neal and Yu families, we are so sad for your loss, and our heavy hearts go out to your families. Thank you for attending today’s memorial service, honoring the lives and service of Airman Yu and Airman O’Neal.”
Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Hodges Viccellio, 50 SW Chaplain, led the meditation, where he talked about moving forward from the tragedy and remembering the two Airmen.
And for one last time, Master Sgt. Genevieve Sills, 50th Operations Group first sergeant, called out the names of the two Airmen’s unit members for one last roll call.
This time, O’Neal and Yu didn’t respond.