Alexandria Mae Gleason Morrow had two small children, dreams of becoming an art teacher and the loving admiration of those with whom she served in the U.S. Air Force.
The 25-year-old staff sergeant, assigned to Mountain Home Air Force Base, was reportedly loading a bomb onto a plane in Jordan Wednesday when something broke and the bomb slipped and hit her on the head, according to WHEC-TV of Rochester, N.Y., about 40 miles from Morrow’s hometown of Dansville. The TV station spoke with Morrow’s mother, Stephanie Gleason.
On Thursday, Morrow’s comrades overseas packed into a fallen warrior memorial ceremony to honor her service and her character, Air Force Central Command reported on its news website.
Colleagues knew her as “Mother Alex,” and Lt. Col. Paul Tower said at the memorial that “she was one of the kindest people many of us have ever known ... a friend who could be trusted in the toughest of times.”
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Capt. Wesley Sheppard, unit officer in charge, said at the service that the best measure of Morrow’s impact “was in the amount of love our team felt for her ... the looks on everyone’s faces as we processed that we lost the mom of the flightline. We could see it by the tears that rolled down our faces and by the tight hugs we gave each other.”
The official announcement of the staff sergeant’s death Thursday gave no details of what happened to Morrow, saying only that the weapons loader died “while performing maintenance duties in support of combat operations” in Operation Inherent Resolve, and the incident is under investigation.
U.S. Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, issued a statement Friday honoring Morrow, praising her kindness and commitment and saying “her legacy will carry with it the honor she and so many other brave Americans have earned in defending our freedoms at home and abroad.”
Morrow and her husband have two children, ages 2 and 4, WHEC-TV reported. In the small town of Dansville, a school district Facebook tribute notes that a new flag is flying at half staff outside Dansville High School and one of her art projects has hung in the school’s office since her senior year.
“She had aspired to become an art teacher after concluding her military career,” according to the Dansville Central Schools post.
Not long after her 2009 graduation from Dansville High, she was in the Air Force, headed for Mountain Home.
“She rolled into the weapons section office at Mountain Home AFB on a Wednesday in early 2010 and said, ‘Hi, I’m Airman Gleason, what do I need to do?’” Master Sgt. Jeffrey Passut, who deployed with Morrow from Mountain Home, said at the memorial. “Due to her dedication and drive she ended up becoming the first Senior Airman team chief in 389th Aircraft Maintenance Unit history. Although that is an [noncommissioned officer] job, she was our first pick to lead that crew.”
Passut said if someone wanted something done right, he or she went to Morrow, a weapons load crew chief.
“When the commander for United States Central Command came for a visit, she was selected to brief him on weapons loading operations,” according to the Air Force Central Command story.
Reportedly on her second deployment, Morrow had been in Jordan since October, WHEC-TV reported.
A spokesman for Mountain Home Air Force Base said a memorial for Morrow will be held on the base, but the time and place have not yet been set. Tech Sgt. Samuel Morse said the event might be limited to Morrow’s unit or it may be opened to anyone with base access. No event for the general public is planned.
Arrangements for a local memorial service in Dansville have not yet been made, Morrow’s mother told the TV station.
“We feel her loss acutely because Alex was such a bright light and she is one of our own,” Dansville Central Schools said via Facebook, calling her “super-positive, loved by all and a person who would help anyone.”
Kristin Rodine: 208-377-6447