16 June 2009

MEPS ceremony room named for fallen paratrooper

Bill and Suzane Ayers pull back the cover blanketing the shadow box honoring their son, Cpl. Jonathan Ayers, May 20 during a dedication ceremony held at the Atlanta Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS) on Fort Gillem. The Atlanta MEPS dedicated the room used to swear in new applicants to Ayres May 20 to honor his sacrifice. In addition to the shadow box, the room’s main door is adorned with a plaque bearing Ayers’ name. Photo: Kevin Stabinsky.

The legacy of Cpl. Jonathan Ayers will live on with military recruits taking the oath of enlistment at the Atlanta Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS) on Fort Gillem in the ceremony room which now bears his name.

Ayers took his own oath in this very room in April 2006, and served in Afghanistan with the "Chosen Few" of 2-503, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team during 2007/2008. On July 13, 2008, Ayers was killed in the battle of Wanat along with eight of his brothers.

Witnesses describe Ayers’ actions like something out of a Hollywood movie. Taking withering RPG and small arms fire on his position, Ayers stood his ground and stayed on his M-240 Bravo heavy machine gun until he was killed.

"It was some of the bravest stuff I’ve ever seen in my life, and I will never see it again because those guys... well, normal humans wouldn’t do that. You’re not supposed to do that — getting up and firing back when everything around you is popping and whizzing and trees, branches coming down and sandbags exploding and RPGs coming in over your head... "
- SPC Tyler Stafford, survivor of the Battle of Wanat

Cpl. Ayers was posthumously awarded the Silver Star, the third highest military honor for valor, for his actions during that battle.

Col. Barrye Price, commander of the Eastern Sector of the U.S. Military Entrance Processing Command, enlists three recruits May 20 into the Army in the Cpl. Jonathan Ayers Ceremony Room at the MEPS. Ayers, a Silver Star recipient, enlisted at the same MEPS in April 2006. Photo: Kevin Stabinsky.

With Bill and Suzane Ayers still present, three new recruits were sworn in immediately after the dedication ceremony. By having recruits enlist in a room bearing his son’s name, Bill said he hopes those enlisting gain a deeper appreciation for what they are doing and the sacrifices they are making.

Thanks to JarHeadDad for sending the story.

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