Military bomb-disposal technicians who’ve been killed in the line of duty will be honored during a ceremony Saturday at Eglin Air Force.
This will be the 48th Annual EOD Memorial Ceremony, which is held every year on the first Saturday in May.
“The ceremony will start at 9 o’clock in the morning and it usually runs about an hour and a half and we will read every name on that wall,” said LTJG Michael Smoot from the Navy’s Explosive Ordnance Disposal School (Naval School Explosive Ordnance Disposal) at Eglin.
Currently those names represent the 320 fallen EOD warriors who’ve died while in the line of duty since 1942.
This year, the names of six more such individuals are being added, representing various branches and eras.
“Ranging from two active-duty Navy EOD techs, also some WWII EOD techs, and one Army Vietnam EOD tech,” Smoot said.
Two of the men being honored died last year in support of Combined Joint Task Force, Operation Inherent Resolve. Navy Senior Chief EOD Technician Scott Dayton was killed in action Nov. 24 in Syria; Navy Chief EOD Tech Jason Finan was killed in Iraq on Oct. 20.
Army Sgt. 1st Class Biddle Izard, Jr. was killed in action in 1968 in Vietnam.
Three of the honorees, Army Tech. Sgt. James Eberle, Navy Ensign Charles Grice, Sr. and Navy Gunner’s mate Seaman Robert Burr were all killed in the 1940's while serving in WWII.
A complete list of fallen EOD warriors is available online.
Smoot says for some time now, they’ve digging into the files from decades-old conflicts for their deserving brothers and sisters, who’ve made the ultimate sacrifice.
“As we’ve been doing research in looking through our history books and the military’s history books, we found that members that had graduated in the classes of the initial explosive ordnance disposal classes were killed in action, but we had never memorialized them. So, doing extensive research every year trying to find more names of those graduates and how they were killed in the line of duty.”
Once the paperwork is in order, the name is submitted to the military for a formal nomination to the EOD Warrior Foundation.
“And, then if everything’s in order, the EOD Warrior Foundation then picks it up from there and takes all the steps necessary to work on researching and contacting family members and doing all the steps necessary to get them added to the EOD Memorial Wall,” said Nicole Motsek, director of the EOD Warrior Foundation, which is a non-profit that supports the bomb disposal technicians and their families. That includes flying in family members for the annual ceremony.
“The ones that were killed in the last year they are, you know they’re families that have children, so we’re very engaged with them and have been since we heard the news to ensure we’re supporting those families and helping to take care of them,” Motsek said. “And, then other families we’re bringing are much more removed. I think we have a 93 year old; it’s her first flight ever and she’s flying to the memorial ceremony to honor her loved one, which I believe is her brother.”
Motsek says the EOD Warrior Foundation evolved over the years since a group of active military banded together in 1969 to stand up an EOD Memorial Wall and scholarship program. In 2013, it merged with a separate foundation that focused on wounded EOD warriors.
“And now we support the joint service EOD community, wounded EOD warriors, families of fallen EOD warriors, maintain the EOD Memorial Wall. We still run the scholarship program, which has grown incredibly with over $212,000 in scholarships awarded this year.”
The EOD Memorial Weekend includes a slate of events presented by the foundation, including an annual golf tournament, auction, crawfish boil and the 49th annual EOD Ball to be held Saturday night at the Emerald Coast Convention Center, 1250 Miracle Strip Parkway SE, Fort Walton Beach.
But the main event is the EOD Memorial Ceremony to be held at the memorial wall across from the Navy’s EOD school, which trains every branch of the U.S. military and about 100 foreign countries. Every week a new class starts and one graduates.
LTJG Michael Smoot says while their training is top notch, the ceremony is a reminder of the dangerous nature of the work they’re often called on to perform.
“Now more than ever EOD is important at every level of the military,” said Smoot. “We are always at the tip of the spear and at the front of any operation to make sure that any guys going into harm’s way are safe and we try to mitigate any dangers, any risk to our forces out there doing work.”
The ceremony will begin at 9 a.m. at the EOD Memorial located on Range Road in Niceville. The keynote speech will be delivered by the Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson.