376th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs Office
TRANSIT CENTER AT MANAS, Kyrgyzstan – People often say, "You should never make a life-changing decision while you are deployed." But two Air Force reservists, one from the Pentagon and the other from Minnesota, chose to defy this adage when they got engaged in a combat zone.
Before deploying to the transit center here to become the 376th Air Expeditionary Wing vice commander, Col. David Pond knew when he returned home he was going to ask his girlfriend to marry him.
Two weeks prior to Pond’s departure, his girlfriend, Lt. Col. Sherry Hemby, left for Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, where she would become the 455th Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation Flight commander.
"I guess from the time I put her on an airplane, I started to question whether I wanted to wait until we got home from deployment," Pond said. "The more I thought about it, I knew I would probably get the chance to fly with our crews and go through Bagram [Airfield]. So, I decided that whenever I had the first opportunity to go there I was going to ask her as soon as I saw her."
Pond was slated to go on an Army support mission moving troops across Afghanistan. As fate would have it, a short-notice change to the itinerary routed the mission through Bagram Airfield to refuel. Before the crew departed, he called Hemby to let her know he would be passing through and that he would love to see her, even for a few minutes.
"This is our first deployment as a couple," Hemby said. "We hoped there would be an opportunity during the deployment to see each other, but we weren't sure. Dave called the morning he was supposed to fly through. He always teases me. He said, 'Guess what?' And I said, 'You are taking me to dinner.' He laughed and said he didn't know if he would be on the ground long enough. I was teasing him and didn't realize he was really coming through."
The C-17 Globemaster III from the transit center ended up landing on the Bagram Airfield flightline directly in front of the 455th’s tents.
"I hadn't even unstrapped from my seat, and Sherry was already up on the flight deck," Pond said. "I took one look at her and I just wanted to blurt out, right at that moment, 'Marry me,' but I didn't want to do it in front of the crew."
Since the crew had about an hour on the ground, Pond asked Hemby to show him her squadron.
"We got off the airplane and we were maybe 25 to 50 feet from it when I stopped and snapped my fingers like maybe I had forgotten something, then I said, 'Oh, by the way, there is something I have been meaning to ask you,'" he said. "Sherry looked at me, and I just said two words, 'Marry me.'"
Hemby had a simple one-word reply.
"I said 'Yes,' as soon as I could catch my breath," she said. "I knew he was thinking about marriage. He had dropped a few hints. I figured he would ask me on our vacation in November. He really did surprise me. One of the things I love about him is his ability to surprise. He has a saying, 'Buckle up, Honey. It's going to be an awesome ride.' And I believe him. He is an awesome man and I look forward to that ride."
When Pond was sharing the story with a group of airmen at the transit center, Col. Philip Greco, the 376th Expeditionary Maintenance Group commander, presented him with two rings. Staff Sgt. Adam Lo Bianco, a 376th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron metals technology craftsman, made the rings from a solid-steel core and laser-engraved them.
"I tell you, I have been at this game for a long time, and it takes a lot to catch me off guard, and this left me absolutely speechless," Pond said after he received the rings. "For anyone who has known me any amount of time, I'm never speechless.”
The couple plans to marry in the summer in Tennessee.
"I'm a blessed man," Pond said. "It is just so absolutely wonderful and peaceful to find the person you want to spend your life with.”