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A tribute to the ultimate sacrifice

Approximately 300 runners and spectators gather around the starting point of the 6th annual memorial 5K in honor of Airman 1st Class Zachary Cuddeback on Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Mar. 4, 2017. All proceeds raised by the event were donated on behalf of Airman Cuddeback to the United Service Organizations, Fisher House Foundation, American Red Cross, and the Wounded Warrior Project. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class D. Blake Browning)

Approximately 300 runners and spectators gather around the starting point of the 6th annual memorial 5K in honor of Airman 1st Class Zachary Cuddeback on Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Mar. 4, 2017. All proceeds raised by the event were donated on behalf of Airman Cuddeback to the United Service Organizations, Fisher House Foundation, American Red Cross, and the Wounded Warrior Project. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class D. Blake Browning)

The starting horn sounds and runners take off as the 6th annual memorial 5K in honor of Airman 1st Class Zachary Cuddeback begins on Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Mar. 4, 2017. Airman Cuddeback’s life was taken during a routine air crew run at Frankfurt International Airport in March of 2011. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class D. Blake Browning)

The starting horn sounds and runners take off as the 6th annual memorial 5K in honor of Airman 1st Class Zachary Cuddeback begins on Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Mar. 4, 2017. Airman Cuddeback’s life was taken during a routine air crew run at Frankfurt International Airport in March of 2011. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class D. Blake Browning)

RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany --

RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany – A memorial run was held in the honor of Airman 1st Class Zachary Cuddeback outside the south side fitness center on Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Mar. 4.

 

The sixth annual homage has become a tradition to members of the Ramstein populous. This year Airman Cuddeback’s father attended the event.

 

"I've always been interested in coming over for one of the runs," said retired Army Chief Warrant Officer Robert Cuddeback, father of the fallen Airman. "I wanted to come over specifically to show that I appreciate the support that the Ramstein community has given me and my family since his death."

 

Approximately 300 participants, between runners and spectators took part in this year’s memorial run to remember the sacrifice made by one of their own.

 

"Most people would tell you that he was just honorable, honest and helpful," said, father of fallen Airman 1st Class Zachary Cuddeback.

 

A member of the 86th Vehicle Readiness Squadron, Airman Cuddeback's life was taken in the line of duty Mar. 2, 2011

 

"Cuddeback was doing a routine air crew run," said Tech. Sgt. Allen Brown, 86th VRS vehicle operator. "He was picking up some ‘deployers’ at Frankfurt International Airport, when a terrorist approached the bus he was driving. The terrorist opened fire killing one of the deployers, he then boarded the bus and unfortunately he killed Airman Cuddeback also."

 

Thousands of miles away, Zach’s father said he could sense the presence of his son leaving.

 

"It was a difficult day of course," said Robert Cuddeback. "I knew right away actually. Before it was on the news, before anybody called me; there was just something spiritual and I knew Zach had passed. And probably 10- 15 minutes later I received a call from my brother asking if I had seen the news. I tried to call Zach, and he didn't answer his phone of course. So I kind of knew right away but about 10-12 hours later the casualty assistance officer came to the door.”

 

In the wake of events such as these, Cuddeback believes the best thing to do is extract the wisdom from the situation and pass that guidance along so another Airman don't fall victim to the same tragedy.

 

“What's really important is that as a former soldier myself, retired military, I really want the Ramstein community as well as everywhere to understand that Zach’s death should not be in vain," said Robert Cuddeback. "So we need to remain vigilant against our threats around the world. We need to remain vigilant personally and professionally. We need to work towards what our mission is, to protect the citizens at home. Protect America, protect our freedoms."

 

While this tragedy still shakes the hearts of many, the Ramstein community continues to honor the sacrifice made by one of their own.

 

“We’re never planning on stopping,” said Brown. “As long as we have operators here on base we will be doing this event.”