Airmen honor POW

By Senior Airman Jacob Jimenez on December 23, 2015

It was mid-afternoon on a sunny day as seven airmen stood motionless in a moment of silence to honor one of their own. More than 500 family members and friends watched as airmen from the Joint Base Lewis-McChord Air Force Honor Guard removed the flag from 1st Lt. Joseph Moser's casket at his funeral in Ferndale, Washington, Dec. 11. Moser passed away Dec. 3.

Moser was not only an Army Air Corps World War II pilot, but also a former prisoner of war.

"It was an honor to do this, and I hope they feel better knowing we did everything to honor him in the best possible way," said Senior Airman Joseph Sanchirico, JBLM Air Force Honor Guard ceremonial guardsmen. "Presenting the honors to the next-of-kin and being the face of the Air Force to the family was an honor."

The JBLM Air Force Honor Guard performs many ceremonies, but not usually for servicemembers who are as well-known as Moser, Sanchirico said.

Moser was presented the Distinguished Flying Cross in a January 2009 ceremony at JBLM, 65 years after his service in World War II where he distinguished himself in aerial combat, extraordinary achievement and heroism. A simple mistake on the paperwork prevented him from receiving the medal earlier.

Moser was shot down during his 44th combat mission Aug. 13, 1944, while flying a P-38 Lightning aircraft. Afterward, he was captured by Nazi forces and held in the infamous Buchenwald concentration camp. Just a few days before he was scheduled for "extermination," he was moved to a German POW camp. He was held as a prisoner for more than six months before being repatriated.

"It was a privilege to have the opportunity to participate in today's ceremony," said Capt. Maxfield Shea, the flag presenting officer for the honor guard. "Lieutenant Moser exhibited heroism in a way that people can only hope to strive for today."

As the honor guard folded the flag, three World War II vintage aircraft roared over the cemetery. Family and friends shared tears of sadness and pride as "Taps" was played and rifles fired to present arms in honor of Moser.