Leebernard Emmanuel Chavis – Airman First Class, United States Air Force

NEWS RELEASES from the United States Department of Defense

  • October 16, 2006
  • Public/Industry(703) 428-0711

DoD Identifies Air Force Casualty

The Department of Defense announced today the death of an Airman who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Airman 1st Class Leebenard E. Chavis, 21, of Hampton, Virginia, died October 14, 2006, while performing duties as a turret gunner with the Iraqi police in the vicinity of Baghdad, Iraq. Chavis was assigned to the 824th Security Forces Squadron, Moody Air Force Base, Georgia.

Courtesy of the Hampton Roads (Virginia) Daily Press
October 17, 2006:

Michael Chavis was on a cell phone for a half-hour on Friday, talking about cars with his older brother in Iraq.

The next day, Airman First Class Leebernard Emmanuel Chavis, 21, of Hampton, Virginia, was killed by a sniper’s bullet while patrolling with Iraqi police near Baghdad.


“We were told that he was near to where some Iraqis were bombed out,” Leebernard’s father, also named Michael, said Monday. “They said that he exposed himself when he left his truck to try to get them out of danger.”

Family members said they were informed of his death Sunday.

Leebernard, who had joined the Air Force a year after graduating from Phoebus High School in 2003, manned a .50 caliber machine gun in a turret atop a truck. He was charged with extra vigilance as a lookout because his perch was higher.

“His commanding officer told me today that they called him the ‘Guardian Angel’ because of that,” Leebernard’s father said.

Leebernard – called Lee by his friends and “Nard” by his family – had talked of the future with Michael, his younger brother by 14 months, on Friday.

“He said he wanted to get a car when he got back,” said young Michael Chavis, a 20-year-old student at Thomas Nelson Community College. “We talked about our girlfriends. I always told him that he should have gone to school. He was a smart guy.”

Leebernard began his second tour in Iraq in June, 13 months after beginning his first tour. He was due home near the end of the year. “He just didn’t know what he wanted,” his father said of the interim between high school and the military. “He spent a year trying to figure out what he wanted to do and decided he wanted to join the police, maybe join the FBI or CIA.”

With that in mind, Leebernard joined the Air Force to train in police work. He was a member of the 824th Security Forces Squadron, stationed at Moody Air Force Base, near Valdosta, Ga.

“It was just something he wanted to do,” his father said. “He could have gone to college and then go on to the police force, but he wanted to explore life a bit first.”

While at Phoebus High School, Leebernard played the cymbals with the marching band and was a member of the Marine Corps ROTC.

“He was in a group that called themselves the ‘Stick ‘n Move,’ a very close-knit group of young men and ladies,” said Kevin Davis, assistant principal at Phoebus, of roughly 14 percussionists. “They were sort of a band within the band, their own fraternity. They would eat lunch together, practice together.”

Davis remembered the group and Leebernard in particular.

“He had a wonderful smile,” Davis said. “He would turn around and throw that smile at you, and you knew it was Lee.”

Chavis family members said funeral arrangements were incomplete, and that Leebernard would be buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

Airman, Marine Mourned at Arlington
Admirers Recall Their Commitment
By Leef Smith
Courtesy of the Washington Post
Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Airman First Class LeeBernard Chavis and Marine Sergeant Justin Walsh weren’t newcomers to Iraq. Both were serving repeat tours of duty when they were struck down this month in separate incidents.

Yesterday, the young men were interred during ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery.

Chavis, 21, whose family moved from the District to Hampton, Virginia, when he was 6, joined the Air Force two years ago. He was on his second tour in Iraq when he was shot and killed by a sniper October 14, 2006, while on duty as a turret gunner in Baghdad. Chavis was assigned to the 824th Security Forces Squadron, based at Moody Air Force Base in Georgia. He was his unit’s first combat casualty in Iraq.

Family members said Chavis expected to return home in January before being deployed elsewhere. His brother, Michael Chavis, said he planned to become a police officer. Members of his squadron said he talked about perhaps joining the FBI, CIA or the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Chavis’s unit was attached to the 372nd Military Police Battalion, which trains Iraqi police officers in western Baghdad. On trips through the city streets, he was lead gunner, manning a .50-caliber machine gun. He was responsible for clearing a path for the rest of his team.

Yesterday, dozens of men and women from the Air Force gathered with Chavis’s family and friends at Arlington, where blustery winds blew leaves across the field of headstones.

“I always knew Lee was a take-charge kind of person,” said Kevin Davis, assistant principal at Phoebus High School in Hampton, which Chavis graduated from in 2003.

“He was assertive in what he believed in,” Davis said. “He always stuck to his guns. At his funeral service in Hampton [on Monday], people were saying Lee was a hero and a warrior. I could see those traits in him. He was a person who truly gave his life for his country, who gave it for what he believed in.”

US Air Force honor guard carried the casket of Airman First Class Leebernard Chavis during burial
services at Arlington National Cemetery today in Arlington, Virginia. Chavis was killed October 14, 2006
in Iraq by a sniper’s bullet and was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart for bravey.
More U.S. soldiers have been killed in Iraq in October than in any other month of the year

Walsh’s family and friends traveled from his home town of Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, to attend his memorial.

Walsh, 24, a 2001 graduate of Cuyahoga Falls High School, was a gifted athlete — a varsity wrestler and football player who belonged to the Fellowship of Christian Athletes — and an accomplished student who was a member of the National Honor Society.

Teachers said he could have taken his choice of colleges. Instead, he chose to join the Marines, becoming an explosive ordnance disposal technician with the 8th Engineer Support Battalion, 2nd Marine Logistics Group, II Marine Expeditionary Force, based at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. He was serving his third tour of Iraq when he was killed.

Walsh was trying to defuse one roadside bomb in Anbar province October 5, 2006, when he was wounded by another. He died about a week later at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda.

“He could have gone to any school he wanted,” said Greg Roth, an Advanced Placement history teacher who knew Walsh from his classes and had advised him on the school’s Student Council. He said Walsh naturally took on leadership roles. The Marines, he said, was a lifelong aspiration for Walsh.

“From the time I met this kid as a freshman, that’s what he talked about,” Roth said. “He always talked positively about serving his country. He took on big responsibilities and was very duty-oriented.”

Last week, thousands of people lined the streets of Cuyahoga Falls, about 40 miles south of Cleveland, as Walsh’s funeral procession drove past.

Marine Staff Sergeant Thomas Kirk, a friend from New York, spoke during Walsh’s home town memorial service and talked about the work that Walsh did in Iraq disarming bombs.

“There are many thousands of Marines, sailors and soldiers who are walking around because of the work Justin did,” Kirk said, as reported in the Akron Beacon Journal. “Today is the last day I will be sad. From now on, I will only be happy to have known him” and for the “impact he had on my life.”



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