By Karl Terry: PNT Managing Editor
If Capt. Kermit O. Evans Sr. wasn’t smiling, you knew something was seriously wrong, say those who knew him.
Friends, family and fellow service members at Cannon Air Force Base recalled that smile Friday at a memorial service for the 31-year-old flight commander of a bomb disposal unit stationed at Cannon.
Evans died Dec. 3 in a Marine helicopter crash in the Anbar Province of Iraq. He was on his second stint in Iraq.
His fellow bomb disposal officers recalled during the memorial that Evans got a big smile on his face as soon as he had blown up his first bomb. They said the smile never left because he loved what he was doing.
As the service at Cannon Air Force Base’s Chapel proceeded under the direction of Chaplain Capt. Eusebio Rios, a portrait of Evans, dressed in fatigues with that big smile on his face, looked out on the crowd through sprays of red and white carnations.
Evans’ 13-month-old son, Kermit Jr., in the audience for the service along with his mother and other family members, kept his father’s good nature throughout the service, cooing contentedly.
Lt. Col. Stephen Wood, 27th Civil Engineer Squadron Commander, said Evans considered the Air Force as a career at a young age. He said Evans had a solid Air Force career as a civil engineer but wanted to do more, and began exploring bomb disposal, a privilege Wood said is reserved for the topnotch performers in civil engineering.
“That top-level stratification was repeated throughout his career,” Wood said.
Wood noted Evans’ volunteer service to local groups including Habitat for Humanity, elementary schools and 4-H groups. He also praised him for his dedication to his personnel.
“Capt. Evans set himself apart from other officers,” Wood said.
The commander said he did that through his dedication to his people and sense of humor.
Reflecting on the loss to Cannon and his field of service, Wood said that Evans would be deeply missed.
“He was working to solve Iraq’s toughest problem — roadside bombs — protecting military and civilian lives,” Wood said.
Wood asked the audience to remember Evans as a father, husband, son, brother, friend and leader.
“Remember him for the protection of you and me,” Wood said. “He’s a true American hero.”
Speaking on behalf of Evans’ family, Kervin Evans said the way his brother was being described didn’t quite fit the fellow he knew growing up in the small community of Hollandale, Miss.
“As the saying goes, ‘It takes a village to raise a child.’ I think it took a planet to raise Kermit,” Kervin Evans said. “Kermit maintained his inner child all through life and probably to the last moment.”
Kervin Evans said he and his brother had a long-standing pact never to stay mad at each other more than three hours.
“No matter how mad we made each other, we wouldn’t allow anger to separate us. We had to call each other,” he said. “I advise each and every one of you to do the same for anyone you care for. Because you’re never going to know if you’ll see them again.”
Rios based her message on the book of Nehemiah and pulled the parallels of Nehemiah as builder and warrior when he rebuilt the temple walls in Persia under the constant threat of attack to that of Evans’ life as an engineer and bomb disposal officer.
Rios quoted a famous mountaineer who said, “The greatest award comes only with the greatest commitment.”
“Capt. Kermit Evans lived that quote,” Rios said. “He modeled courage, strength and forgiveness. … When he went from standing to moving in a direction — we all wanted to follow.”
During the memorial Evans was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal posthumously. He also earned the Bronze Star and various other decorations during his career. Cannon Air Force Base officers presented his wife , Perneatha Evans, a shadow box with his medals and an American flag.
Born in 1975 in Hollandale, Kermit Evans earned a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering in 2000 from Mississippi State University. The following year, he entered officer training school at Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala., and received his commission as a second lieutenant in November 2001.
In the second phase of his Air Force career, he entered Explosive Ordnance Disposal school at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. After graduation there he was stationed at Cannon.
Among his crowning achievements at Cannon was his unit earning the Sgt. Stryzak Award as the best EOD flight in Air Combat Command.
Evans is survived by his wife and son of Las Vegas, Nev.; parents, Charles and Margaret Evans, and brother.
Evans was buried Tuesday at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C.