Friends and comrades of a 21—year—old Virginia airman on Thursday honoured the energy, dedication and humour of a young man whose life was cut short last week by an alleged Islamic extremist gunman.
Airman 1st Class Zachary R. Cuddeback was one of two servicemen shot and killed on March 2 by a 21—year—old Kosovo Albanian who prosecutors say confessed to wanting to kill Americans in revenge for the Afghanistan mission.
“All I know and all I can tell you is that Airman Cuddeback died serving his country,” Lt. Col. Uduak Uduoaka, Cuddeback’s commander, told dozens who had gathered beneath an oversized U.S. flag at Ramstein Air Base in western Germany.
“I can’t tell you and define how and why, but as a member of the family and his commander, I lost a valued comrade, and so today is about remembering him.”
Cuddeback, an Illinois native, was at the wheel of a bus at Frankfurt Airport that was to bring 15 England—based airmen to Ramstein Air Base for deployment to Afghanistan when, German authorities say, gunman Arid Uka stormed aboard shouting “Allah Akbar” - Arabic for “God is great” - and opened fire.
Two other airmen were injured, one in the head, but the Air Force said they are both now recovering.
Master Sgt. Brian Fitzsimmons, recalled Cuddeback as positive and openhearted.
“He never had a bad day,” Fitzsimmons said. “If somebody else was having a bad day he would always pick them up, carry them on. Just really an incredible young man.”
After Thursday’s service in Ramstein, a memorial is scheduled on Friday at Lakenheath Airfield in England, where the other airman killed in the attack, Senior Airman Nick Alden, 25, of South Carolina, was based.
Funerals for both will be held later in the U.S.