Former Pope Air Force Base airman posthumously receives Silver Star
By DREW BROOKS | The Fayetteville Observer, N.C. | Published: June 20, 2012
A Pope airman who died two years ago trying to lead the effort to save a fallen comrade in Afghanistan has been honored with the nation's third-highest military award.
Senior Airman Mark Forester was posthumously awarded the Silver Star during a ceremony Friday at the home of Air Force Special Operations Command, Hurlburt Field, Fla.
The medal was presented to his parents, Ray and Pat Forester of Haleyville, Ala., according to officials.
The honor came nearly two years after Forester was killed. He was a combat controller with the 21st Special Tactics Squadron at what was then Pope Air Force Base.
The 29-year-old from Haleyville died Sept. 29, 2010, in Uruzgan province.
Forester, who was two months into his first deployment, had already gained a reputation as a "warrior of the highest caliber," according to those who spoke at a 2010 memorial following his death.
A month before his death, Forester had earned the Bronze Star with Valor device for actions while attached to a Special Forces team.
When he died, Forester was attempting to rescue wounded teammates, according to officials.
Facing heavy machine gun fire, Forester took a sniper's shot to the chest, but not before killing several insurgents during an assault on an insurgent stronghold.
"Airman Forester led the team back into the enemy's line of fire in a valiant effort to rescue a fallen comrade when he was fatally wounded by insurgent fire," according to the citation that accompanied his Silver Star.
As a combat controller, Forester was trained to coordinate and manage air support for ground troops in hostile environments.
He joined the military in 2007, but decided on his career path more than five years earlier following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
At the time, Forester was serving a two-year voluntary mission with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, according to his brother, Thad Forester.
Forester waited until after graduating from the University of Alabama before joining the Air Force, and immediately sought out one of the service's toughest jobs.
"He wanted to serve," Thad Forester said. "And he wanted the toughest job the military could offer."
More than 400 attended the memorial for Forester on Pope in October 2010, and his Silver Star ceremony also was well attended.
Thad Forester said there was standing room only, with airmen and spouses from Special Tactics Teams across the nation attending alongside Green Berets and family friends.
"It was touching," Thad Forester said. "We're just honored."
After his death, Forester's family created the Mark A. Forester Foundation, which provides scholarships for students of Haleyville High School and contributes funds to other charities.
More information on the foundation can be found at markaforester.com.