It’s been a busy political year, and yes, there are numerous political issues, debates and personalities that need discussing. However, given the special aspects of this time of the year, it became clear that what had to be done in this column was to tell you about the four young men from Kansas who died this year in Afghanistan, accompanied by excerpts from a poem by a young helicopter pilot killed in Vietnam.


It’s been a busy political year, and yes, there are numerous political issues, debates and personalities that need discussing. However, given the special aspects of this time of the year, it became clear that what had to be done in this column was to tell you about the four young men from Kansas who died this year in Afghanistan, accompanied by excerpts from a poem by a young helicopter pilot killed in Vietnam.
“If you are able, save them a place inside of you and save one backward glance when you are leaving for the places they can no longer go.”
Army Staff Sgt. Vinson Adkinson III was killed on Aug. 31 in Logar province when enemy forces attacked his vehicle with a bomb. Adkinson - who went by the nickname “Trinity” - was serving his second tour of duty in Afghanistan after serving three tours in Iraq. He was born in Harper, Kansas, moved to Oklahoma, and moved back to Kansas while in high school. He was 26 years old and had been married for five years when he died. A friend of Adkinson’s, Sgt. David Shearouse, said, “Everybody wanted to be like him. He was a good man.” When Army officials appeared at the house of Adkinson’s father on August 31, Vinson Adkinson, Jr., knew why they were there and told them to go away. “I told them I didn’t want them here.”
“Be not ashamed to say you loved them, though you may or may not have always”
Army Captain Jason McMahon died on September 5 after sustaining wounds from enemy fire in Jalalabad. McMahon was born in Mulvane, Kansas, and attended Emporia State University before enlisting in the Army in 1996. He was 35 years old and had a wife and three daughters. The daughters ages are 3, 7, and 9 years old.
McMahon commanded a bomb disposal company and told his father “That’s what I do,” after watching the movie, “The Hurt Locker.” His father, Ron, said that McMahon had great courage, recounting an incident in Iraq where he reached to disarm a bomb and fell down a culvert and broke his leg. He spent the night in the culvert and in the morning dismantled the bomb before getting flown out. Said his father, “When his troops were tired, he’d go out and work in their place.”
“Take what they have left and what they have taught you with their dying and keep it with your own.”
Army Sgt. Justin Officer was killed on Sept. 29 by a roadside bomb attack in Kandahar. Officer lived for many years in Wichita. He was due to leave the Army before his most recent deployment to Afghanistan and surprised his family when he changed his mind and extended his enlistment long enough to include the deployment. His father said he asked him many times why he changed his mind, his only reply being that he wanted to “help the new kids that were assigned to his unit and might save their lives.” He was 26 years old.
“… take one moment to embrace those gentle heroes you left behind.”
Army infantryman Tom Moffitt was killed Oct. 23 when his unit was attacked by insurgents while on patrol in Paktika Province in southeastern Afghanistan. Moffitt grew up in Wichita and was well-liked and adventurous. His optimistic personality affected many people. His grandfather was his best friend and his life philosophy was best expressed by the phrase, “Chill out.” Moffitt told his father in early October that he dreamed of living on his grandfather’s farm in Alma while he worked toward a degree at K-State. But he also told him there was a chance he’d re-enlist in the Army. Moffitt was 21 years old.

(Excerpts above from a poem written by Major Michael O’Donnell. O’Donnell was a helicopter pilot in Vietnam who was killed in action on March 24, 1970. He was 24 years old).