BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan – More than 200 coalition service members gathered to honor the loss of a fallen Soldier during a memorial service on Kandahar Airfield, Nov. 5.
Army Maj. Jeffrey Calero, 20th Special Forces Group, died of wounds caused by an improvised explosive device explosion during a combat reconnaissance patrol and re-supply convoy, Oct. 29.
"Jeff's most impressive leadership virtue was the seminal trait of leading from the front," said an Operational Detachment Alpha team member. "Jeff died saving my life. Jeff was clearing on foot the wadi [a depression in the desert] I was about to drive through. He stepped on the IED directly in my path. He gave his life and saved mine."
The tribute to him began, Oct 29, when more than 400 coalition Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, and Airmen from countries around the world at Kandahar Airfield attended a ramp-side service to salute and pay respect to Calero.
"Maj. Jeffrey Calero, gave his life defending the liberties and freedoms we hold so dear," said Army Lt. Col. Heinz Dinter Jr., Special Operations Task Force 32 commander. "Our Nation has lost a highly respected Soldier, and our regiment has lost a fearless warrior and dedicated leader. Calero's family has lost a beloved son and a devoted brother. We will never forget the sacrifice and dedication of this great American hero."
The memorial ceremony began Nov. 5 with the playing of the National Anthem and invocation by the task force chaplain.
"Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go," he said from Joshua 1:9.
Shortly after the SOTF-32 commander shared his praise for Calero's heroism.
"The motto of our regiment is 'free the oppressed,' Jeff willingly risked his life to ensure that others would have a chance to experience freedom. We live in safety and share the benefits of freedom because of the commitment and dedication of men like Maj. Jeffrey Calero," he said. "His sacrifice will not be forgotten."
Following the commander's comments the C Company, 1st Battalion, 20th SFG commander gave a rare insight into Calero's attitude to tackle the toughest challenges and to care for his team.
"I first met Jeff at the Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force compound in Bagram in January 2003, fresh out of the Special Forces Qualification course. At that point in the deployment, I needed a detachment commander to tackle a difficult situation in Asadabad," he said. "While the specifics of that conversation have faded with time, Jeff's basic message still remains clear, 'Send me sir . . . I can handle the mission. I can make a difference.
"Jeff knew where he wanted to go, and I had to ask why? His reasons were clear, succinct, and heartfelt. He told me, that where the mission was the hardest, is where he wanted to be, then paused and said, 'My guys are as good as any team in the battalion, send us, we can handle the mission.' There was no bravado or posturing in his statement.
"He died leading his men and serving his country fully knowing the risks he took. He has set an example for all of us. He will be dearly missed by myself and all of the men in Charlie Company, and he will be remembered as a man who throughout his life, truly made a difference."
Other friends commented on his bravery and ability to lead from the front. The service ended with a 21-gun salute and every member stepping forward to pay respects to this warrior.
"Perhaps I can think of no more applicable verse than this: Greater love has no one than this, that he may lay down his life for his friends," said a friend and fellow teammate. "As Jeff laid down his life for his friends, he was defending the poor and the needy, the weak and the oppressed. He sacrificed everything so we may live."