Family plans ride to memorialize Air Force son
By BAILEY LOOSEMORE
His dog tags hang around his mother’s neck.
The black Jeep Wrangler he bought to go mudding sits unused in the garage, and a motorcycle he meant to sell for parts remains dismantled in a box outside.
On the living room wall, a GI Joe action figure remains in its box beneath a photo from his basic training graduation day. A white mat behind the photo is now signed by fellow Air Force members who knew him after.
David “Max” Walker II of Spring Hill died a year ago in his dorm at Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma, but the items he left and those his family received in the months since his passing have allowed his parents and siblings to keep him close.
Now, the family plans to dust the Jeep off and honor Max’s memory with a memorial ride from Columbia to Spring Hill on Saturday.
“In your heart, you’re trying to do something. You want to make him proud,” Max’s mother, Sarah Oliver, said.
Anyone can participate in the ride, which will begin at 2 p.m. at Harley Davidson of Columbia, 1616 Harley Davidson Blvd., and end at Dolan’s Deli and Bar in Spring Hill, 3525 Kedron Road.
Max’s sister, Temperance Jones, will lead the line of cars, motorcycles and other vehicles as a way to emulate motorcycle brigades that lead military funeral processions, Oliver said.
“She wants to lead in his Jeep and kind of let him take us all safely,” Oliver said.
Max’s parents could tell he would join the military from a young age. As a child, he played with GI Joes and Power Rangers — always the red one. He told his parents that’s what he wanted to be when he grew up.
After his older brother, Aaron Walker, joined the Air Force in 2006, Max’s mind was even more set, Oliver said.
“A lot of people say they went in because of 9/11 or something like that,” Oliver said. “(My children) always say, ‘We just want to do something.’”
Max left for basic training in October 2010, graduated at the end of the year and moved to the Oklahoma base at the start of 2011, where he was ranked as an airman first class.
Oliver said she talked to her son twice a week on the phone and almost every day through text messages while he was at the base. Max told her about his plans for the weekend, the girlfriends he had — or wanted to have — and his job as an air mechanic.
“He was really good at tearing things up. But he could put them back together,” Oliver said. “He had to be perfect for that job.”
Oliver said she learned more about her son’s job after his death when she received boxes of notes and paperwork from his dorm, which were delivered a few months after she received word about his passing.
That night was strange, Oliver said, recalling the visit she received from three Air Force casualty assistance representatives on July 31, 2012.
The representatives had gone to her former home address first, where Max had grown up and Jones still lives. They asked for Max’s father, David Maxwell Walker Sr., who was running an errand, Jones said. When he returned shortly after 8:30 p.m., he stood in the driveway as the representatives told him of his son’s passing.
“I remember seeing my dad’s face. His eyes were red,” Jones said. “I remember walking outside and looking at them, like I knew something was wrong. They said his name and that he’s passed away. My dad grabbed my daughter (from me), and I just fell into my husband.”
Jones said she and her husband drove to Columbia, where her mother was working, with the representatives to be there when she heard the news. The drive took 20 minutes, and Jones had her husband bring her mother outside so they could tell her in private.
“I just started screaming,” Oliver said of once she was outside. “It took several minutes for them to get me to listen because I kept telling them to shut up — this isn’t funny.”
Oliver said the three representatives were from a different base than where her son was located and couldn’t give her details of his death. Since then, investigators have told her the case is still being reviewed.
Once the event this weekend is over, Oliver said she plans to dig through the boxes she’s received from her son’s dorm to learn more about his death. The mission will keep her busy, since she’ll no longer have the ride to plan.
“We were still dealing with the emotions of everything. We still have our hard days,” Oliver said. “When we started planning this, we said we’ve got to get on it. It’s helped a lot.”
Ride participants are expected to reach Dolan’s at 4:30 p.m. Saturday, where a silent auction will take place from 11 a.m. to about 5:45 p.m. Music will follow at 6 p.m. All proceeds from the auction and a raffle will go to the Wounded Warrior Project.
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Airman David Maxwell Walker II, age 20, and a resident of Spring Hill, Tennessee passed away July 31, 2012 at Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
David’s remains will be transferred to the care of Heritage Funeral Home on Monday afternoon at the Nashville International Airport. His family will gather for the dignified transfer. The escorted procession will arrive at Heritage Funeral Home at approximately 5:30 PM on Monday, immediately followed by the official receiving ceremony. Airman Walker will lie in state in the Chapel of Heritage Funeral Home until the funeral services on Wednesday.
Additional honors and respect will be provided by the Patriot Guard.
Services honoring his life will be conducted at 11:00 AM on Wednesday, August 8 from the Chapel of Heritage Funeral Home. With full military honors provided by the United States Air Force, Airman Walker will be laid to rest in the Garden of Unity at Maury Memorial Gardens, next to the funeral home. The family will receive friends onTuesday, August 7 from 4:00 until 8:00 PM.
David was born November 11, 1991 in Greenville, MS to David Maxwell Walker and Sarah Lyles Walker. He was a 2010 graduate of Spring Hill High School, and a member of the Spring Hill First Baptist Church.
“It is well known that Max was a ‘momma’s baby,’” his mother recalls. “He would always tell me he was never too big to sit in my lap.” He was always kind-hearted and loving toward others. His respect for those around him was evident in his life.
In his free time, Max enjoyed riding motorcycles and getting as muddy as he could, off-road. If there was something to tear up, Max would. He played paintball and computer games as well.
In school, he was a member of the Spring Hill JROTC program. His JROTC Commanding Officer recounted his time with Walker when they began working together in 2008. “Cadet Walker was part of the program from its inception. During those years, I had the opportunity to observe numerous aspects of his leadership, teamwork, and mission accomplishments,” recounted CSM Stephen Williams. “He soon rose through the ranks to Staff Sergeant in the program and was recognized for his outstanding performance by receiving numerous awards and ribbons.”
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Walker’s Air Force recruiter in Columbia, Tech Sgt. Stephanie Mills, remembered him Wednesday as a “really good guy, very mild-mannered and respectful.
“He was very smart, too, and played sports. He was a really good kid,” she said.
Walker was in the Army Junior Reserve Officer Training Program at Spring Hill High School.
It had been his dream to serve his country, said a Columbia relative, Mitzi Mangrum.
“He was a precious young man,” she said. “He always had a smile on his face.”
Walker’s awards include the Outstanding Unit Award, the National Defense Service Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and the Air Force Training Ribbon. – Walker was assigned to the 552nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron at Tinker and worked as a crew chief on the E-3 Sentry Airborne Warning and Control System, or AWACS, aircraft. – See more at:http://m.columbiadailyherald.com/sections/news/local/sh-airman-died-dorm-air-force-base-confirms.html#sthash.RlwTFCFa.dpuf
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Airman’s body returns home
By KELLY QUIMBY
People, vehicles and flags lined two major highways in Maury County Monday in a show of support for the family of 20-year-old Airman David Maxwell Walker, who died in his dorm at Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma last month.
The Air Force has not yet released the cause of Walker’s July 31 death.
The people lining the route from Nashville International Airport to Columbia’s Heritage Funeral Home said they were there to honor the service he gave his country.
Amy Claybourne, a Columbia resident and friend of Walker’s family said she frequently has been on the side of the road during military service processions. She said she stood in the bitter cold during the procession for Lance Cpl. Andrew Carpenter — who died serving in Afghanistan last February — and she stood with flag in hand in the afternoon heat this week, to show the family they and their son are loved.
“That somebody was willing to put their life on the line for my freedom, I didn’t choose that route,” Claybourne said. “This is the least I can do for them, and it’s never enough. It’s still not going to make it any easier. I’m here because it’s something to give the family to be proud of — even in such a dark time.”
Mt. Pleasant resident Donna Young brought her children to the driveway of Heritage Funeral Home to teach them respect for those in military service. Her brother graduated with Walker and played football with him in Spring Hill.
Her mother, Yvonne Butler, watched her son walk across the stage at the same graduation ceremony when Walker received his diploma. The scene outside the funeral home was especially devastating to her, because Butler said it could easily have been her own son.
When the procession arrived at the funeral home at about 6 p.m. — led by Tennessee Highway Patrolmen, Columbia Police officers and Maury County Sheriff’s deputies and followed by several members of the Patriot Guard — dozens of local residents had lined Bear Creek Pike to pay their respects.
Cheryl and Gary Kaiser, members of the Maury County Christian Motorcyclists Association, said they were there to show their support for the serviceman. It was enough to Cheryl Kaiser that he put on the uniform.
“To me, this is what it means to be an American,” she said. “If they’re willing to pick up a rifle and stand in front of me, I should be willing to stand behind them.” — with Sarah Walker Oliver.