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Dyess Honor Guardsmen remember those that came before us
Riza flew a total of 35 combat missions, never leaving the ground without his good luck charm, his son’s leather baby shoe, attached to his parachute harness, on which he wrote the target of every mission he flew. (Courtesy photo)
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Dyess Honor Guardsmen remember those that came before us

Posted 3/7/2012   Updated 3/7/2012 Email story   Print story

    


7th Bomb Wing Public Affairs

3/7/2012 - DYESS AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- Editor's Note: This article features a letter sent to Col. David Béen, 7th Bomb Wing commander, from retired Col. Brad Riza, Air Force chaplain, regarding the outstanding efforts of Dyess' Honor Guardsmen.

Letter

Dear Colonel Béen,

I am writing in hopes that you will put a note of praise in the files of the Airmen mentioned below. But first may I tell you why. On the 19th of Feb, about 1500, my Dad, a WWII 1st Lt. and B-17 pilot passed away.

One of the things he has always wanted was for the Military Honors to be rendered at his graveside. Because we had family coming from far away (my son, Colonel Shane "Spam" Riza, 354th Ops Group/CC from Eielson AFB - was TDY to Guam), we set his funeral and graveside for Friday, 24 Feb. That morning at breakfast, my cell phone rang and the voice on the other end was a hospice nurse...she informed me that my Mom had just passed away, too!

They were a special pair! Ever since he came home from England in 1945, they had spent only a few nights apart and at a family reunion years ago, my Mom told the group that they went to sleep each night holding hands. I had often joked that they wanted to walk into Heaven holding hands - well, they damn well did it!!

So we rushed around and modified the funeral service and celebrated the lives of these two amazing folks in the funeral on Friday afternoon.

Since my Mom's body was not quite ready for burial, the suggestion was made to divert the Honor Guard who was already nearly to Glen Rose and have them come back the next day. I was adamantly opposed to that abuse of those guys and our tax dollars, so a compromise was struck and your guys moved seamlessly and flawlessly into the new "plan" - to do the Honors inside the church and then take my Dad's casket back to the funeral home to lie right next to my Mom and then do a dual graveside on Saturday morning.

Your great Airmen acted as if they had done the Honors Ceremony just that way a thousand times - perhaps they have. But you will note from my signature block below, I was an Air Force chaplain for 27 years and I participated in an indoor service like that only once, I think.

Senior Airman Isaac Willard, Airman First Class Michael Bostic and Airman First Class Ryan Dussett were the picture of professionalism and although they didn't know that they were participating in the ceremony for a real hero - Dad was shot down and led his entire crew to evade capture until they were repatriated after Paris was liberated (actually, at the last moment they had to leave one crew member in a German-held hospital) - as someone said after the service: "Those guys treated your Dad like they were burying a general."

I know that teams like this are selected because they are level-headed, bright young people - but I have to tell you that these young men represented Dyess and the US Air Force in a fine way. There were folks there who had never seen that flag folding and nor heard Taps...but I have, and way too many times! And I can tell you that your guys were great.

Thanks for providing this last tribute to a great and proud Airman.

Brad "Hotrod" Riza
Chaplain, Colonel, USAF (Ret.)

H.B. Riza

H.B. Riza was a B-17 aircraft commander in the 8th Air Force over Europe from 1944-1945, flying combat missions over Germany, Belgium, France and Czechoslovakia.

Riza flew a total of 35 combat missions, never leaving the ground without his good luck charm, his son's leather baby shoe, attached to his parachute harness, on which he wrote the target of every mission he flew.

Near the end of the war, Riza was forced to abandon his aircraft in Belgium and leave one of his crew members in the care of a German doctor, all while avoiding enemy capture.

Riza decided to stay in the Reserves after the war had ended. However, the years he spent in the service had marked him for life, as there has always been a model of his B-17 sitting in a prominent place in his home.

"I'm a colonel in the United States Air Force," said Col. Shane Riza, 354th Operations Group commander and grandson to H.B Riza. "H.B. Riza was a first lieutenant in the United States Army Air Forces. As is now plainly obvious, rank alone has never shown the true measure of man. Anything I have ever done is simply dwarfed by his astounding achievements. I stand here as much in awe of him today as the day I first understood my relationship to him and the nature of his defining time."



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