Thursday, July 26, 2007

COMMENTARY>>No excuses for DUIs

By Senior Airman Kevin Johnson
Special to The Drop Zone

Today I performed full military funeral honors for 19-year-old Senior Airman Christopher Hardiek of Dieterich, Ill. He was traveling home on leave from Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, N.C., before being deployed to Iraq. At 1:05 a.m. July 3, 2007, the truck he was driving was struck head-on by 22-year old Justin DeJaynes.

Christopher Hardiek was pronounced dead at Fairfield Memorial Hospital at 2:25 a.m. Justin DeJaynes remains hospitalized in Indiana, and is being charged with driving under the influence (DUI), failure to wear a seatbelt, improper lane usage, and no insurance. Neither driver was wearing seatbelts.

His memorial service started at 10:30 a.m. today and his graveside committal service started at noon. Members of the Patriot Guard were on hand to escort the procession to the gravesite. We handed the folded flag off to Christopher’s mother.
After the service was completed, the NCOIC of the detail and I went back to the family and presented the mother and the father with a shadow box of Christopher’s accomplishments.

He was posthumously awarded the rank of Senior Airman and an Achievement Medal. His other citations included the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, and the Air Force Basic Training Ribbon.
Just in case there was any question about it, yes, this kid was 19-years-old.

He wasn’t old enough to drink. He wasn’t old enough to gamble. But someone out there made the decision to drive after having a few too many and look what the outcome was.

Now, a family has to live with the though of losing their “baby.” Even though this is our job, this particular funeral really affected me. I buried someone younger than me. I was the NCT (Non-commissioned Officer in Charge of Colors).

I basically helped give the signals between the NCOIC of the detail and the Firing Party (the people who fire the 21 rounds) and the bugler. I had a front row seat to the committal service. I had to watch as the mother broke out in tears because she was burying her son. I could hear her ask “why?” A part of her died today. I had to watch this for the entire ceremony. The crying. The sadness. The unanswered questions.

It made my stomach upset and it made me sad. After the service was over, we marched back to our vans and I switched my colors harness off and grabbed one of two shadow boxes to present to the mother and father.

We made our way over to collect three rounds that were fired during the service to present to the family...Duty, Honor, and Country. Then we presented them to the family. The family broke down. I got choked up.

After we went back to the van, I went away from everyone else and broke down as well.

My workplace, the weather squadron, has had a little trouble this past month with DUIs. To those individuals...fortunately for everyone, none of you ended up like this. I know it must suck getting “punished” for what you did.

I hope you realize the enormous risk you put everyone on the road that night or that day. And
I hope you realize that you may have caused another family this paramount grief that the above-mentioned family went through. And I hope you realize that you should have called someone.

There is no excuse for what you did. You have plenty of people on your recall rosters and in your flight that we should never have this problem again. Do not be the reason that I have to bury another young kid for such a wasteful death.

To everyone else, why don’t we get out of the “9 to 5” mind-set and start watching out for each other...we are suppose to be a big family that supports each other in everything we do.

One team, one fight. Cut the high-school crap and grow up. We need to, especially now.


Blogger sperkat said...

chris was my cousin & i just want to say that the military rights at the funeral were done really really well. the whole family was impressed. thanks to everyone who helped and the patriot guard riders. & i agree with everything on here

August 5, 2007 8:30 PM  
Blogger ChristophersCousin said...

This is very touching. Our family thought the ceremony was done very well. It's horrible that we had to go through such a tragedy, Christopher will never be forgotten. He was one of the best people I had ever known.

Justin Dejaynes is facing 3-14 years in prison! I personally don't think its long enough!

January 9, 2008 11:12 AM  

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