Joshua Woody's Mother’s Memories 

I remember when he first was able to play outside, and Jonica, his sister, took him everywhere with her.  From swinging, and sliding to watching Grandpa milk Melissa, our cow. 

I remember pulling him and Jonica in their wagon about two and one-half miles to the grocery store, while Tracy rode her tricycle.

I remember the time our dog, Windy grabbed him, because he was trying to spank her with a belt.  She only left a couple of scratches.

I remember Tracy bringing books home from school, and I would read to them before bed at night. 

I remember when Josh was about three, or four.  He went with a friend to someone’s home who had chickenpox.  When asked if he had already had chickenpox, he thought a while, and then replied, “I don’t know, but we got chickens.”

I remember popping popcorn, and going over to Vasona Park, and feeding the ducks.

I remember him, and the rest of the kids riding Lightening, their pony up the hill behind the house.  We lived on about two acres.

I remember him helping feed the chickens, pigs, and cows.  He liked helping his Dad, dress out the wild boar, he shot while hunting.

Like most big brothers do sometimes, he would complain about Timmy following him everywhere.  He didn’t quite remember doing it to Jonica.

When we moved up on Mt. Uminum, we had a dirt and gravel down hill driveway.  The kids decided to fold the stroller flat, and ride it down the driveway.  Tim, was the only one to get hurt.  At just three and a half, he got his first black eye.

One afternoon we encountered a newborn fawn on the road, as we rounded a corner.  It was trying to stand and its legs were all wobbly.  Josh wanted to get out and help it off the road.  The doe came back as we watched, and it wobbled away.

I remember him shooting a rattlesnake with an arrow, and penning it down with the first shot, even though he couldn’t see it.

I remember the fun times he had at the pig parties, over at Rick and Joyce’s.

I remember the kids trying to make a snowman in the snow.  He had to shovel a path after it had melted, and then froze-over.

I remember the time the kids picked berries, and I made homemade jam, and biscuits for lunch.

They would run and hike through the trees, and shrubs with our beagle, Peppi.

One Saturday, Josh had stayed in town with one of his friends.  I got a call from his friend saying Josh needed stitches.  When I arrived I found out that he had broken the chain on his bicycle, and scraped his shoulder, and arm on the pavement.  There wasn’t any skin left to stitch.

On one occasion, I picked up some second-hand tennis rackets, and tried to teach Josh and Tim how to hit the ball over the net, into the right court.  It was a lot of fun.

I remember when he helped me put brake shoes on my car, because they were worn out.

He was about twelve years old when his father left us.  He helped me with the hot water heater, and other things around the homestead.  He told me that he would buy me a house, because we were just renting.

He would call his father every week to check about the weekend.  The boys went to their Dad’s place on the weekend.

Josh got an award, a first place ribbon at the Santa Clara County Fair, for his windmill he made in metal-shop.

When George and I got married, and bought a house in the town of Corning, he came to visit on the weekends.  Then he moved in with us so he could play sports in high school.  He played football, and was on the wrestling team.  He also started working for George on the weekends wiring houses.  He bought an old  ’70 Ford pickup truck with his money, and took driving lessons so he could get his drivers license on his sixteenth birthday.  After passing the test, he went right over to McDonald’s and filled out and application for work.

I remember how, when working with George, he just grabbed hold of the rafters and pulled himself up to string wire across the top.  He was a very diligent worker.

It looked so easy, when he climbed the tree in our backyard to pull down the ivy that was trying to choke it.

I remember his shyness, when he first started going to school dances.  The first time he brought a girl to the house for us to meet.  When he asked if he could cut a rose off my bush when he and Carrie were dating.

I remember how at his wedding to Dawn, he exclaimed I have two sets of parents to the photographer.

Walking through the antique shops with him and Dawn the next day.

But most of all I remember how much I love and miss you Josh.

  What Freedom Means to Me By Airman Aaron Botts (Aaron Botts won the Liberty Bell Award for this paper.)

Many times over the past five years I have drawn different conclusions as to what freedom means to me. At times when I have been tired, aggravated, lonely, and homesick I wondered if defending America's freedom is worth it? When times are not so good and I start questioning the worth of Freedom, my mind returns to an unforgettable day in the Florida sun as three surviving buddies and I salute the casket of a fallen friend and comrade in arms.

At my first technical school at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas, I met a group of guys I will never forget. Over the next few months, we became the best of friends. Since Sheppard was so close to my home in Oklahoma, they would travel home with me on long weekends and such, and eventually even started courting females from my hometown. As school drew to a close and everyone departed to their duty assignments, my friend Josh decided to take his relationship with one of the girls to the next level. The young lady he was dating packed up and off they went to Eglin Air Force Base, Florida to begin a new life together.

Josh was so busy the first few months working, settling into a new place, and making wedding plans that we did not talk a lot. Something that bothers me to this day.

In February Josh was married and in March was on his way to keep America free in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. The time he spent there was long and lonely, especially when all he really wanted was to be home with his new wife and the life he started with her. Days turned into weeks and weeks into grueling months. Then one day the orders came; it was time to go home. That night, Josh relaxed with friends in a day room of the dormitory now world-known as Khobar Towers, contemplating his arrival home in only two short days.

The next morning as I reported to work, coworkers were talking of an explosion. Questions were numerous. How many Airmen died in the bombing? Do I know anyone involved? What caused this tragedy? Who could have done such a terrible thing? Three days later, I got a message from my Commander. The message read, "Airman Botts, we need to talk." As I stood at attention in his office, he told me my friend did not make it. My mind filled with memories of days past. My commander stated I was one of the individuals his wife requested in her presence. The next day, I was on a plane headed to Eglin Air Force Base, as were three other friends from bases worldwide.

During the funeral ceremony, I held up the best I could, trying to be strong for his wife and parents. As the ceremony continued, I thought of fun days spent at the swimming hole in my hometown. I thought of the times we spent studying together at Sheppard, and how happy and anxious we all were to PCS and start working jets. I reflected on friendships; Josh's and mine in particular.

As the funeral procession traveled to the Naval Cemetery at Pensacola, we stood among many high-ranking government officials. Several Generals made speeches and others said kind words on Josh's behalf. Soon it was just family and close friends left behind -no one wanting to leave Josh. It was indeed an awkward moment for all. We stood fighting emotions and trying to keep bearing. In the distance, a lone bagpipe whaled the most depressing sounds I've ever heard.

As if someone had called us to attention, we snapped in unison without a word. As we stood in full Service Dress uniform in the unbearable heat saluting, they carried our buddy off to a better place.

So you ask, what does freedom mean to me? I guess freedom is the tear in my eye, that moment in Florida when we laid to rest someone who really knows what it means to pay the ultimate price in the name of freedom.

Dedicated in the memory of A1C Joshua Woody.

     

A poem from Joshua Woody's memorial service in Corning, CA:

His Spirit Lives On

Do not stand at my grave and weep I am not there I do not sleep I am a thousand winds that blow I am the diamond glints on snow I am the sunlight on ripen grain I am the gentle autumn rain When you awaken in the mornings hush  I am the swift uplifting rush Of quiet birds in circle flight I am the soft star that shines at night Do not stand at my grave and cry I am not there I did not die

  A poem from Josh's memorial panel at Eglin AFB:

Success

 To laugh often and much;  To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children:  To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends:  To appreciate beauty, to find the best in others;  To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition;  To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. That is to have succeeded.  Ralph Waldo Emerson