Bonacasa-Lemm Two Airmen Killed in Afghanistan Receive Bronze Stars with Valor

 By Oriana Pawlyk, Air Force Times, February 4, 2016


 Bonacasa, left, and Lemm, right, have been posthumously honored with the Bronze Star with Valor.(Photo: Air Force photos)


 Two airmen killed in Afghanistan in December have been posthumously awarded the Bronze Star Medal with “V,” the Air National Guard announced Thursday.


Staff Sgt. Louis M. Bonacasa and Tech Sgt. Joseph G. Lemm, both with the 105th Security Forces Squadron at Stewart Air National Guard Base, New York, have been honored with the nation's fourth highest military decoration for valor “for saving the lives of other airmen at the cost of their own,” the Guard said.


Lemm, 45, and Bonacasa, 31, and four other airmen were killed when a suicide bomber rammed an explosive-laden motorcycle into a joint patrol with Afghan security forces on Dec. 21, 2015, outside of Bargram Air Field.


When the insurgent made a sudden stop, just 15 feet from their patrol, Lemm and Bonacasa immediately "and with complete disregard for their own safety" took positions between the suicide bomber and their team members, "exposing themselves to the brunt of the blast" and thus shielding other members of their team from the deadly explosion, according to their award citations.


The men were directly responsible for the "safety and security of five fellow security forces airmen, five Office of Special Investigation agents and two linguists," the citation continues.


Two other U.S. troops and an Afghan were wounded in the attack.


"They selflessly gave their lives in defense of our country and they are our true American heroes," Maj. Alta Caputo, commander of the 105th Base Defense Squadron, said in the release.


Lemm enlisted in the 105th Airlift Wing in 2008, serving with the 105th Base Defense Squadron as a security forces member. He had previously served in the military from 1988 to 1996, according to the Guard. He was also a New York City police detective.

Bonacasa enlisted in the active Air Force in 2002 and transitioned to the New York Air National Guard's 106th Security Forces Squadron, at Francis S. Gabreski Air National Guard Base in 2008. He joined the 105th Base Defense Squadron in 2010.

Both men had two deployments each to both Afghanistan and Iraq between them.

"The tragic loss of six airmen casts a dark shadow over our Air Force this holiday season," Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James said the day after the attack.


"Our deepest sympathies go out to the families of these brave Americans who died in service to this vital mission, and our thoughts remain with all of our troops serving overseas during this holiday season so that we may have peace and security at home," Defense Secretary Ash Carter, echoing James, said in a statement.


Four of the six airmen were OSI agents, making the attack "the deadliest day in our command's history,"  Brig. Gen. Keith Givens, OSI commander, said on Dec. 22.


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