Based: Moody Air Force Base, Ga.
38th Rescue Squadron
Supporting: Operation Enduring Freedom
Died: March 4, 2002
Gardez (near), Afghanistan
Married, 2 children
High School: Farmington High School (Farmington, N.M.)
Burial: Arlington National Cemetery
Cunningham was part of a quick-reaction force sent to rescue a group of soldiers pinned down by heavy machine-gun and rocket fire on a mountain slope. One helicopter had already been shot down when Cunningham's unit flew in aboard another.There is much to read about Air Force Senior Airman Jason D. Cunningham. You can read more here, here, here and here. Information about the Battle of Takur Ghar is here.
"They went in under heavy machine-gun fire. The helicopter was hit by a rocket and crash-landed," Savino told the hushed church. "The pilot and co-pilot were wounded. Some of the Rangers on board had been shot."
Cunningham, a paramedic, opened his rucksack and began treating the wounded. But the flames and smoke from the burning MH-47 helicopter forced him and another rescuer to move the wounded soldiers outside. As they maneuvered over the rocky terrain, gunfire and mortar shells rained down from entrenched Al Qaeda and Taliban positions above.
"Jason said they had to get these guys out of there. He ran across a direct line of fire to move the wounded men to another location," Savino said.
He helped move the wounded three times to shield them from enemy fire.
"Jason was going back and forth treating his wounded comrades when he was shot," Savino said. "He was shot but he continued to treat 10 wounded patients. They owe him their lives. The only reason they came home was because of Jason Cunningham. It doesn't make it easier saying he died doing what he loved or that he was a hero, but that's what he was."
Another Californian, U.S. Navy SEAL Neil Roberts of Woodland, also died in the fight.
Cunningham is survived by his wife, Theresa, his parents in New Mexico and his daughters--2-year-old Hannah and 4-year-old Kyla.