Master Sergeant Theresa sent information about Senior Airman Brian Kolfage's retirement ceremony from April 12th.
Brian served in the Security Forces in Iraq. He was on his second tour in early September 2004. Here's a picture of Brian (right) and his buddy, SrA Valentin Cortez. You can read about their first exploits in Iraq (OIF I) here.
On September 11th, 2004, Brian took a direct hit from a 107mm mortar. Valentin wrote this summary of events on September 12th.
It was approximately 0720 on Sept 11 2004 as Kolfage, me and the rest of the Mids Shift crew arrived back at T-Town (Tent City). As always Kolfage, Higgs (An A1C we befriended when we were assigned to the Iraq customs team) and I walked to our tent G-5. As usual, we joked around and planned on what we do once our deployment was over. We planned to meet up with some of our team members and blow off some steam on some beach during Spring Break. As we got to our tent and prepared to call it a day I reminded Kolfage to wake me up around 1500 so we could go to the gym and call home as we usually did together. He was like family. We did everything together. Sometime between 1400 and 1420 I was woken up as I heard a HUGE explosion right outside our tent. I had been knocked out of my bed and I could hear debris raining down on our tent. Higgs began to yell and ran into my room. I made sure he was alright and told him to don his PPG. I immediately ran to Kolfage's room, calling his name with no answer. As I entered his room I did not see him. I could hear people running and screaming outside. I told Higgs to follow me outside and see if anyone was hurt. As we ran out we noticed someone lying on the ground approximately two tents from ours. As we approached him it did not click that it was Kolfage. I don't know if it was because of the dust and debris in the air or because I thought it could never happen to us. It was Higgs who noticed who it was. "Oh my God man its Brian!" These are the words that will be with me forever. I kneeled down next to Kolfage and as I checked on him I thought we had lost him. Shortly after he gasped for air and was conscious from then on. As I attended to his wounds I also tried to keep him from looking at them for fear that it would upset him. However, he looked at me and in a calm and collected voice he said "Man I already know, just get me home to Nikki." Only moments had passed since it all began and I could hear more mortars landing close to us. I never got a chance to get my PPG before I ran out of the tent. I was only wearing my sweatpants so I told Higgs to run back to the tent and grab it for me as well as Kolfage's ID. By the time Higgs came out people were standing around looking. I yelled at them to check the surrounding tents and check for any other injured people. A Major and two other people were helping me with Kolfage by now and God knows that without their help it would have been almost impossible for me alone to attend to all his injuries. The injuries were severe. His right hand was just torn up as if chewed up. His left hand had a hole from were shrapnel had sliced through it just underneath his thumb. His right leg had been peppered by shrapnel. His left leg, the most severe and life-threatening injury, was almost severed at the hip and just holding on. As I wrapped his hands and applied pressure on his left leg I never stopped talking to him for he almost dozed away a couple of times and I feared he would not wake up again. I assured him he had nothing to be ashamed off, that I was proud to serve with him and that he would make it back home to his family and Nikki.
Once the ambulance arrived and as we put him on the stretcher I literally had to hold him and his leg together. Once in the back of the ambulance I prepared to hop in the front to accompany him to the emergency room I took a quick glance of the area. I saw things lying on the ground, bloody things. I sighed and realized I needed to keep it together for Kolfage, Higgs and the remainder of the team. I jumped in and tried to comprehend what had happened. As we arrived at the emergency room the medics took over. There I stood outside the hospital half-dressed wearing my buddy's bloody hat wondering why. A few minutes later my Lt and two of my sergeants arrived trying to understand what happened. They apparently thought that I too had gotten hurt. Everything had happened so fast that there was a lot of confusion. During Kolfage's surgery the call for blood went out throughout the base and within minutes dozens of soldiers, sailor, marines and airmen responded. People were literally being bussed in, some on bikes and some even running all the way from where they heard the call. Just an incredible site. That day Kolfage made it through surgery but remained in critical condition. We were informed that both his legs and his right hand were amputated but that they were doing everything to save his thumb on his left hand. As for me, I got more support than I could stand, from my team, Chaplains and a bunch of people I still don't know. The next day we lined up next to the C-5 in which Kolfage would be flown to Germany and PROUDLY saluted him as he was carried on to the plane. I was allowed to say good-bye but as I approached and saw him on the stretcher with tubes and wires sticking out of him I did not know what to say. I thought back to times we had spent together, to last year when again we both have volunteered to serve in dangerous lands, and remembered a saying by which we motivated ourselves. Knowing this would be the last time I would see him for a long time I leaned over and spoke those words. "We live together. We fight together. We die together. We Band of Brothers."
Brian's story continues in the Extended Section:
Brian was evac'd quickly to Walter Reed Army Hospital. Brian's family and his fiance' rushed to be by his side.
At Walter Reed, he has been through sixteen surgeries. Through it all, his fiance and family were there. The Air Force assigned 1LT Jeffrey McKamey and CMSgt Frederick
Richardson as Family Liaison Officers, and Colonel Mike Irwin and CMSgt Dan Barber as his new Commander and Command Sergeant Major. With enormous support, Brian never quit, never gave up.
He married Nikki on November 15th, 2004.
He met our President. Twice.
From his website - SrA Brian Kolfage Fund:
All Security Forces units from all commands and civil corporations, etc. are soliciting donations to help defray expenses being incurred by Brian's family. Brian is saving up to defray the cost of expensive equipment that is not covered by the VA, which will ease his progression back to normal day to day living. Any little bit you are willing to give will be greatly appreciated.
"You never know when it's coming, until its too late. You never think it's going to be you, another statistic, injured or dead? When that mortar hit me I flew about six feet in the air and landed on my back, conscious, with my body parts splattered all around me. You wont think about death. I didn't. I just wanted to go home and be with my wife, Nikki. I wasn't scared, I was angry that it was me and not knowing what was going to happen to me. I was lying on rocks, I took a look around and saw bloody body parts everywhere, muscle, and skin. It made me more furious. Every doctor told me I wasn't supposed live, but I did. I had a collapsed lung, two above the knee amputations, right hand amputation, and some internal injuries. when I woke up I had tubes down my throat, through my ribs into my lungs, in my stomach and numerous tubes where my legs were blown off, and I was on a respirator. What doesn't kill me only makes me that much stronger".
You can donate via PayPal or you can send checks to:
ICO/United Churches Credit Union
24706 Michigan Ave
Dearborn, MI. 48124
Now, at the begining of this post, I mentioned Brian's Air Force retirement ceremony. Here's a picture from the ceremony pamphlet (produced by the Eagle Chapter of the Air Force Police Association) of Brian with Nikki on the left and his sister on the right:
Brian's future is bright. He's going to work in Arizona for the Civil Service in the Personnel Security area. I'm sure that Brian and Nikki Kolfage will continue to be people we should know.