Chester McBride Jr., a Statesboro native and 2003 graduate of Statesboro High, was killed Dec. 21 along with five fellow American troops when a suicide attacker rammed an explosives-laden motorcycle into a joint NATO-Afghan patrol.
The soldiers were killed as they moved through a village near Bagram Airfield, the largest U.S. military facility in Afghanistan, NATO and Afghan officials said. The Taliban has claimed responsibility.
An honor parade will be held Friday in Statesboro beginning at 1 p.m., going from Highway 301 and Parrish Street to North Main Street, then turning right onto West Main Street, left onto Johnson Street and then left onto Grady Street and the Agape Worship Center. A public viewing is scheduled for Friday from 3-8 p.m. at Agape Worship Center and funeral services will be held Saturday at 11 a.m. at Hanner Fieldhouse on the Georgia Southern University campus.
McBride was a member of the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, Detachment 405, based at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama.
Notes of condolences and remembrances of Chester McBride Jr., the son of Anna and Chester McBride Sr., have been pouring in from friends on Facebook.
"I'm forever grateful for Chester and his sacrifice for our country!" friend Brittany Tucker posted on Facebook. "He was a class act, a hometown hero and I'm honored to have known him."
Adelia M. Rogers wrote: "RIP warrior. May your family find comfort in knowing that you are a hero and that millions of Americans still stand by our military. Thank you for the ultimate sacrifice."
Home in October
Statesboro High head football coach Steve Pennington was defensive coordinator when McBride played defensive back on the varsity teams of 2001 and 2002.
"Chester did not carry any ego at all," Pennington said. "His teammates respected him because he always worked to meet the best of his capabilities. He valued work ethic. He valued teamwork."
In October, McBride was home on leave when he stopped by Pennington's office and the two talked for more than 45 minutes.
"He shared a lot of things that he had learned since his days at Statesboro High School and you could see a lot of the confidence that he was exuding, so I asked him if he wouldn't mind speaking with the football team," Pennington said.
"He made it a point the day he was leaving to come address our players. And that was a very special moment. And more so under these circumstances.
"He offered the players four points of emphasis. First, to make the most of every opportunity. Teenagers need to hear that today. Good or bad, you make the most of every opportunity. Second, he challenged them to make good choices in life. Be careful of who you choose as your friends and who you associate with, because the temptations are out there every single day. The third thing was he challenged our players to respect authority and the fourth thing, he made sure to re-emphasize about doing right. And those are four lessons in life that really characterize him."
Buzz Busby was head football coach at Statesboro High from 1999 to 2003, and McBride was a starting defensive back on the 2001 undefeated team that won the Class AAAA state championship.
"He was a very quiet young man who was a class act with tremendous character," said Busby, who retired from coaching in 2005. "He was a quiet leader on our team that coaches knew we could always count on. He was never out of line and did everything with a smile on his face. His parents did a wonderful job of raising that young man and he will be greatly missed."
‘Always did the right thing'
Rico Campbell remembers knowing McBride as a child, and also recalls coaching him when he ran track in high school.
"He was a great student and did what he was supposed to do," he said. "He was responsible, but he liked to joke around, too. He always did the right thing and stuck with it. He wasn't a quitter."
Campbell said McBride "shocked a lot of people when he went into the Air Force. That was Chester — he wanted to do something different." McBride shared with him his dreams of joining the FBI when he retired from the military.
"The entire Blue Devil family was extremely saddened by the news of the passing of Chester McBride,” said Statesboro High principal Ken LeCain. “I will always remember him as a young man of high character with a great smile. Chester made the ultimate sacrifice for his country. I consider myself fortunate to have worked closely with Chester as a student and an athlete. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family."
Alan Tankersley also shared emotions about McBride's death.
"I was a fan of his," he said, having followed McBride in high school football. "Chester was truly an American hero! An American soldier that gave his all so we could enjoy the freedom we have today. He will always be remembered for his sacrifice to this great nation."
McBride's death echoes that of National Guard soldier Sgt. Brock Henry Chavers Sr., from Portal, who died in July 2009 after a bomb detonated near Kunduz, Afghanistan. He was 25 when he died.
Chavers, assigned to Americus' Company D, 2nd Battalion, 121st Infantry, of the Georgia National Guard, died of wounds sustained when an "Improvised Explosive Device (IED) exploded near the Humvee in which he was riding.
Statesboro Mayor Jan Moore said the flag over City Hall would be lowered to half-staff in honor of McBride.
"We are so proud of this young man for his service to our nation and we send our heartfelt prayers and condolences to his family as they mourn the loss of their brave son," Moore said.
In a statement, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter called the attack "a painful reminder of the dangers our troops face every day in Afghanistan."
Last Monday’s attack was the attack on foreign troops in four months. On Aug. 22, three American contractors with the RS base were killed in a suicide attack in Kabul. On Aug. 7 and 8, Kabul was the scene of three insurgent attacks within 24 hours that left at least 35 people dead. One of the attacks, on a U.S. special operations forces base outside Kabul, killed one U.S soldier and eight Afghan civilian contractors.