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'Gentle giant' remembered, laid to rest in Air Force Academy cemetery

January 8, 2014 Updated: January 9, 2014 at 5:46 pm
Caption +
The body of U.S. Air Force Capt. David Lyon is escorted into the Air Force Academy where he was buried Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2014, after his memorial service at New Life Church. Lyon was killed Dec. 27, 2013, in Afghanistan. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)

A Peterson Air Force Base airman, recalled by friends as a "gentle giant," was laid to rest Wednesday in the U.S. Air Force Academy cemetery.

Capt. David Lyon, 28, of Sandpoint, Idaho, was a former academy track star who was killed Dec. 27 in Kabul, Afghanistan, when a car bomb detonated near his convoy.

Lyon, a logistics readiness officer and 2008 academy graduate, was performing a combat advisory mission with Afghan National Army Commandos at the time of his death, according to Peterson officials.

Two Slovakian troops were also killed in the attack, a NATO International Security Assistance Force-Afghanistan spokesman told The Gazette.

Lyon's funeral service, held at New Life Church, and interment at the academy were closed to media to allow the family "privacy and time to mourn," according to a statement posted on Peterson Air Force Base's website.

During the service, streamed live from the church's website, airmen in dress uniforms could be seen singing worship songs with their hands raised in the air.

Scott Irving, who coached Lyon in shot put and discus during his time at the academy, referred to the fallen airman as "one of America's finest men" and "salt of the earth."

Lyon's teammates dubbed him "Leonidas" after the Spartan warrior-king who proved himself at the battle of Thermopylae, Irving said.

"He was so, so very like Leonidas," Irving said, noting Lyon's leadership abilities and selfless service.

"Oh captain, my captain, Leonidas, we salute you. You will never be forgotten."

Lt. Col. Jim Lovewell, Lyon's former mentor, told mourners that the fallen airman almost earned another nickname: Boomerang.

"He kept coming back into work to try to help out," Lovewell said.

He would often urge Lyon to head home after a long day's work. But Lyon would remain, saying he was working on "projects," Lovewell said.

"He was sticking around to make sure I was taken care of," Lovewell said.

Lyon was known as an officer who seemingly had it all, from skill and dedication to a great wife, said Col. Charles Arnold, who commanded Lyon in Peterson Air Force Base's 21st Mission Support Group, Wednesday morning before the service.

"This kid was right out of central casting, sir," Arnold said.

Lyon had already held the top job a captain can have in the unit: executive officer to the commander. He'd moved on to be a key leader in the group's logistics squadron.

It was that skill in logistics that made Lyon a prized commodity in Afghanistan, where he worked to train Afghan special operations troops on keeping themselves supplied.

"Exceptional is absolutely correct," Arnold said.

While Lyon was working in Afghanistan, so was his bride, Dana, who was serving at Bagram Airfield.

The popularity of the couple has the whole wing in mourning.

"Dave truly touched everybody he crossed paths with," Arnold said.

Members of the academy's track team are also in mourning.

Being stationed in Colorado Springs allowed Lyon and his wife the opportunity to volunteer with the team and have some of its members over for meals, academy head track coach Ralph Lindeman told The Gazette on Tuesday.

Lindeman recalled Lyon as a "gentle giant," a "big, strapping guy with incredible intensity, and at the same time one of the nicest guys you'd ever want to coach."

"He was just a tremendous individual who, by the time he was a senior, was one of the absolute best team captains I've ever had during my 25 years at the Air Force Academy," Lindeman said.

Lyon is the third best shot putter in academy history and was a Mountain West Conference champion his senior year, Lindeman said.

Lyon had served in the Air Force for five years. He had been stationed at Peterson since January 2010 and was scheduled to return from deployment next month. He volunteered to deploy to Afghanistan early last year, according to the base.

He was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star, Meritorious Service Medal, Purple Heart and the Air Force Combat Action Medal.

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