Yesterday, at the Rally to Support the Military, Debby Argel Bastion told the story of Iraqi Air Force Captain Ali Abass who died with her son, USAF Captain Derek Argel, in a plane crash in Iraq on May 30th.
Captain Abass was the first Iraqi (and one of sixty foreigners) buried in Arlington National Cemetery. Captain Abass was popular with the USAF. During a mission that went wrong, Abass and an American pilot, LtCol Phillips, performed an emergency landing in Iraq. Abass convinced the arriving Iraqis that he was with the Agriculture Ministry and kept the American pilot hid, saving his life.
Abass went on to work with the USAF Special Operations. On May 30th, Abass and Argel and three other Americans died when their plane crashed in Iraq - Major William Downs, 40, of Winchester, Virginia; Captain Jeremy Fresques, 26, of Clarkdale, Arizona, and Staff Sergeant Casey Crate, 26, of Spanaway, Washington.
Here are some photos from the ceremony at Arlington courtesy of the USAF:
ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY, Va. -- Honor guard Airmen hold flags to be presented to the families of four U.S. Airmen and an Iraqi Airman who died May 30 in an aircraft accident in Iraq. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Amber K. Whittington)
ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY, Va. -- Major Gen. Kamal Abdul-Sattar Barzanjy, Iraqi Air Force commander, presents the Iraq flag to Gen. and Mrs. Hussam Abass Ali, the parents of Capt. Ali Hussam Abass Alrubaeye, during a funeral held here Aug. 11 for the captain and four U.S. Airmen who died May 30 in an aircraft accident in Iraq. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Amber K. Whittington)
[Blackfive note: Debby Argel Bastion is in blue, holding the flag, to the left of Captain Abass's parents]
There are some who object to foreigners being buried in Arlington. I can understand their view, but cannot side with them about men like Abass or South Vietnamese Soldiers or the Brit or Canadian Soldiers (more than half of the foreigners) buried there.
At some level, we are all fighting to ensure that all men are free. America is an idea, not a plot of land (as much as I love my little plot of land), that all men were created equal. Captain Abass was fighting for that ideal and, in a way, fighting for you.
Godspeed, Captain Argel, Captain Fresques, Staff Sergeant Crate, Major Downs and Captain Abass...