Members of the 48th Security Forces Squadron fold the American flag during a special retreat ceremony held last Thursday at RAF Lakenheath for National Police Week.

Members of the 48th Security Forces Squadron fold the American flag during a special retreat ceremony held last Thursday at RAF Lakenheath for National Police Week. (Charlie Reed / S&S)

RAF LAKENHEATH — enior Airman Albert Seidenstucker played taps on the bugle, his solemn expression masking a year’s worth of pain since his buddy, Senior Airman Jason Nathan, was killed in Iraq.

The two were roommates at Camp Speicher near Tikrit when Nathan, 22, died after a roadside bomb exploded near his vehicle while he was performing gunner duties in a convoy last June. Nathan is the only member of the 48th Fighter Wing who has died in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

With the somber tune, Seidenstucker helped pay tribute to Nathan, who served with the 48th Security Forces Squadron, at a special retreat ceremony at Lakenheath last week for National Police Week.

For Seidenstucker, also a member of security forces, and others who attended the event, the grieving process came full circle.

"Because we’re coming up on the anniversary, I think this helps close the loop, but we’ll always remember Airman Nathan," said Maj. John Northon, commander of the 48th Security Forces Squadron.

Lakenheath is dedicating the new Gate 2 to Nathan when it opens next month, another effort that will go a long way in memorializing the young airman’s sacrifice, he said.

Established in 1962, Police Week is embraced by American law enforcement officers as a time to honor their fallen colleagues and educate the public about their work. The theme of this year’s Police Week, "A Time of Honoring, Remembering and Healing," could not have been more appropriate in the wake of Nathan’s death, Northon said.

Nathan, from Macon, Ga., is one of eight Air Force security forces members who have been killed in Iraq and one of about 200 American police officers who died in the line of duty in 2007, according to Lakenheath officials and the nonprofit group Concerns of Police Survivors.

For Col. Mark Nowland, vice commander of the 48th Fighter Wing, Police Week was a chance to celebrate the blue beret-wearing airmen who sometimes go unrecognized in their round-the-clock work.

"These are the first people you see coming on to base and the last people you see leaving, and their professionalism is always second to none," Nowland said.

Besides the retreat, Lakenheath and nearby RAFs Mildenhall and Feltwell also hosted a series of more lighthearted events to mark the week, including a shooting competition, combat course, fitness challenge and golf tournament.

The shootout at Feltwell pitted six, four-man security forces and British police teams against one another in a battle of marksmen. In two heats, each team ran from the gate to the firing range before taking shots, first with the M9 Beretta pistol, then with the M16A2 rifle.

"It’s about bragging rights more than anything," said Master Sgt. Ottis Pack, of the 48th Security Forces Squadron and the noncommissioned officer in charge of Feltwell’s firing range. Though he was running the event, Pack jokingly told Feltwell team members there would be hell to pay if they didn’t win.

Luckily, they did, taking first place in both categories.

"We’re good," said Tech. Sgt. Chad Dispense, a member of the team. "We’re off the hook."

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign up to receive a daily email of today's top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign Up Now