The family of a fallen local hero was gifted Monday with the presentation of an American flag that was flown in his honor over the military base where he served in Afghanistan following his death.
United States Air Force Staff Sgt. Chester McBride, a Statesboro native and 2003 graduate of Statesboro High School, was killed on Dec. 21 along with five fellow American troops when a suicide attacker rammed an explosives-laden motorcycle into a joint NATO-Afghan patrol near Bagram Airfield, the largest U.S. military facility in Afghanistan. The Taliban claimed responsibility.
According to reports, McBride actually shielded the linguist assigned to his patrol during the explosion, saving the linguist's life as he absorbed the worst of the blast.
The Statesboro community gave tribute to McBride on New Year's Day as his body was returned home, turning out in droves for a solemn parade and later filling Georgia Southern University's Hanner Fieldhouse for an emotional memorial service.
On Monday, the Statesboro and Atlanta offices of the Federal Bureau of Investigation added to the show of appreciation for McBride's sacrifice by presenting his family with the flag. McBride was looking forward to a career with the FBI and had received a letter of acceptance from the agency. He planned to begin as a special agent after retiring from service when he returned home.
During the presentation ceremony in City Hall's council chambers, Atlanta FBI Special Agent-in-Charge J. Britt Johnson spoke first, telling the McBride family how Chester had enjoyed "a close relationship" with the agency and was considered "part of the family."
The son of Chester R. McBride Jr. and Annie L. McBride, Chester McBride had been deployed several times and began his most recent deployment in October on a volunteer basis.
Angela Tobon, assistant special agent-in-charge of the Atlanta FBI office, told the family that McBride's smile was "infectious and genuine" and that "he held a place close in our hearts from day one."
Statesboro FBI Special Agent Marcus Kirkland also spoke with the family, sharing personal memories of McBride.
McBride's family expressed appreciation for the gesture.
"It was very thoughtful and touching," Annie McBride said as she stood beside her husband, who held the framed flag close. "People say he was a hero, but he was my son. To me, he was everything. He was my baby and has always been my hero, ever since I first laid eyes on him."
Chester was her only son, she said. His sister, Latrell Zeigler, accompanied her parents to the ceremony, as did family friend Aretha Clisby.
"I know how badly Chester wanted to be part of the FBI," Clisby said. "I remember when he got his acceptance letter."
She smiled through tears as she recalled her close friend.
"He was absolutely the same person he was behind closed doors as he was on the outside," she said. "I told him how proud I was, how much I admired and respected him. I always looked up to him."
Assigned to the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, Detachment 405, out of Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama, McBride was one of six Air Force personnel who died in the attack. The Air Force Office of Special Investigations lost three men and one woman, a major, that day. Two other Air Force-enlisted men who died were with the 105th Security Forces Squadron out of Stewart Air National Guard Base, New York.
Herald reporter Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.