Memorial Ceremony Honors Bomb Technicians
December 16, 2009
- Families, friends, law enforcement and bomb technicians joined the Redstone Arsenal community for the Bomb Technician Memorial Ceremony.
- "You should be proud of him. He represents all that is good in this country and humanity."
- "The officers whose names are on this wall and the wall of Eglin Air Force Base (Fla.) know the risk they took."
- "I saved the world for democracy again today!"
REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. -- Page Hakim, 19, did not just lose a father Dec. 12, 2008. She lost a hero.
"I was so proud of my dad," Hakim said, recalling the tales she got to tell classmates and teachers growing up, of her father, Oregon State Police senior trooper William Hakim, the bomb technician that saved lives on a daily basis, and came to speak to her classes, bomb truck in tow. "How many people can say that'"
Families, friends, law enforcement and bomb technicians from across the country joined the Redstone Arsenal community Dec. 7 for the 2009 Bomb Technician Memorial Ceremony, to honor and remember Hakim and Lt. Michael Avilucea who lost their lives in the line of duty in 2008.
"You should be so proud," said guest speaker Von "Zack" Vaughn, a Navy retired former commander of the combined explosives exploitation cell in Afghanistan to the families of Avilucea and Hakim. "He represents all that is good in this country and humanity."
Avilucea, a member of the New Mexico State Police, was killed May 30, 2008 in an automobile accident, returning from an operation where he assisted in the recovering of explosives. Hakim was killed when a bomb detonated as he examined the device. Both were 51.
"The officers whose names are on this wall and the wall of Eglin Air Force Base (Fla.) know the risk they took. Their sense of honor would allow them to do nothing different," Vaughn said.
That statement rings particularly true for Hakim's family, widow Terri, Page and son Victor, 17, who recall Hakim's passion for the work he did, and his tendency to exclaim, "I saved the world for democracy again today!" after a successful mission.
"I always trusted his talent," Terri said. "I never worried about it. You can't live your life in fear of what he did. He loved it. How many people are able to say they're married to someone who loves their job'"
"The risk is inherent," said David Woosley, a bomb technician with the Chattanooga Police Department, and chairman of the Bomb Technician Memorial Foundation. "Everybody knows it's there. You get one opportunity to make a really bad mistake. That's just what we do. You couldn't pay us not to. You don't avoid it, you go toward it."
While the past year has brought heartache to the Hakim family, amidst their grief and tears they have taken away an even greater memory of their husband and father - what a truly special man he was.
"How many people his life affected - that's what we take more from it than the loss," Terri said.
It is a loss that hasn't just been felt by his family, but by his fellow bomb technicians and colleagues with the Oregon State Police as well.
"He was a real jokester," said Oregon State Police senior trooper Peggy Bishop. "I still can hear his laugh."
"He was a great mentor, a great teacher," said Oregon State Police senior trooper Mike Blank, Hakim's partner. "Every time I do it I think about him. It was always a race to see who would get in the bomb suit first."
The memorial ceremony included Vaughn's speech, which spoke to the sense of duty and camaraderie of the bomb technician community, pieces performed by the St. Louis County Police Pipes and Drums, from St. Louis, Mo., and the unveiling of the memorial plaques by the family members and partners of Avilucea and Hakim.
"If this never happens again, it'll be too soon," Woosley said.
The Bomb Technician Memorial, located at the Hazardous Devices School, is funded completely by donors, such as the Jacksonville, Fla., Police Department, who traveled to the memorial ceremony and made the decision to forego all Christmas parties this year and give that money to the memorial. All bomb technicians in the United States are trained at HDS, and return every three years for re-certification. Maintenance of the memorial is class duty for the basic class at the Hazardous Devices School.
"For us this is home," Woosley said.