Tuesday, December 09, 2014

TOP STORY >> Hero gave his life so his girls would live

A ceremony Saturday at Little Rock Air Force Base commemorated the life and heroism of Arkansas Guardsman Master Sgt. Daniel Wassom, who gave his life so his wife and daughters would live after a tornado hit their Vilonia home in April.

Wassom, 31, lost his life shielding his 5-year-old daughter, Lorelai, while his wife, Suzanne, shielded their 7-year-old daughter, Sydney, in the hallway of their home as an EF4 tornado — with winds of at least 180 mph — traveled 41 miles on a path that included Mayflower, Vilonia and El Paso.

The tornado killed 15 people, including Paula Blakemore, 55, of El Paso.

Wassom’s wife and parents, Pam and Dan Wassom Sr., who is retired from the Air Force, accepted the Airman’s Medal and participated in the dedication of a street in Dan’s name on the base.

The Airman’s Medal is awarded to Air Force members who risk their lives but not in combat.

Lt. Gen. Stanley E. Clark III, director of the Air National Guard and the top ranking Air National Guard member at the Pentagon, presided over the event and presented the Airman’s Medal to the family.

“I represent 105,000 airmen across 50 states, three territories and the District of Columbia.

“It is an honor and privilege to present this medal on behalf of the United States Air Force and the Air National Guard to the Wassom family,” Clark said.

A portion of the main road that runs through the 189th campus has been renamed and dedicated as Master Sgt. Dan Wassom Road.

Col. Robert Ator II, 189th Airlift Wing commander, said, “Dan was willing to step up when the time called for action.

“We are humbled by his character and will be reminded of him daily when we come to work and make that turn on Master Sgt. Dan Wassom Road.”

“Master Sgt. Wassom died as he lived, in service to others,” the colonel said.

Wassom was a loadmaster instructor in the 189th Airlift Wing.

He was deployed in 2010 in support of both Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom.

In addition to the Airman’s Medal, the Wassom family was presented two other medals that the master sergeant earned during his service in the 189th.

The Adjutant General of Arkansas, Maj. Gen. William D. Wofford, presented the Arkansas Distinguished Service Medal.

Ator presented the Meritorious Service Medal.