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19 SOS Air Commando Carries Legacy of Fallen Hero Brother

  • Published
  • By by Senior Airman Caleb Pavao
  • 492d Special Operations Wing

For those of us who have never lost a family member in the service of our nation, we cannot fathom the anguish of such a tragedy and the strength it takes to carry on.

Staff Sgt. Joshua Ruiz, an Aviation Resource Manager with the 19th Special Operations Squadron, felt that pain when his brother, Navy Corpsman Petty Officer 3rd Class Manuel Ruiz, 21, lost his life during a high-profile helicopter incident aboard a CH-46 helicopter with the “Purple Foxes.”

While soft spoken and quiet, Joshua Ruiz doesn’t seem afraid to hold the gaze of anyone. He has turned his pain into motivation and inspiration.

“He was my older brother, and he was someone to look up to,” said Ruiz. “He was hilarious. He was always outgoing. He was just ‘out there’, and funny.”

Ruiz is driven and knows the grounds for his mindset.

“I joined the Air Force with the mentality that I’m serving for my brother and for my family,” said Ruiz.

And serve he does.

“[Joshua Ruiz] came in self-driven and ready to take on just about any challenge, and we had a lot of challenges when we first got here,” said Master Sgt. Buddy Stott, the 19 SOS Squadron Aviation Resource Management superintendent, who in-processed to Hurlburt Field at the same time as Ruiz two years ago. “He’s been crushing it ever since he got here and as long as I’ve known him.”

Ruiz is not one to dote on his own accomplishments, rather he remains humble and focused.

“I feel like I could do more for the Air Force and the military in general,” said Ruiz. He said he still strives to be more like his brother and is inspired by his brother’s work with multiple branches.

These aren’t empty words. His motivation has not gone unnoticed.

“When I find people like [Ruiz], I do my best to invest in them because that is what’s going to carry the legacy of the Air Force forward.” said Stott. “I can feel safe retiring with people of his caliber leading our Airmen.”

Ruiz is not the only member of his family helping to carry on the military legacy. On Dec. 5, 2019, Ruiz reenlisted next to his wife, Cheyne, who was at the same time, swearing in for her first enlistment.

“I think they’re going to make a great dynamic duo,” said Stott. “I think [the enlistment] creates even more buy-in with the Air Force way of life and the mission.”

The couple have two children ages two and six. Ruiz is stepping up at home as well while Cheyne goes through Basic Military Training and Technical School.

“I’m definitely excited about [her enlistment],” said Ruiz. “I’m trying to do everything I can to assist her. That’s part of marriage – helping each other out.”

In this, Ruiz is beginning to feel fulfillment.

“I think if [my brother] could see me now, he would be happy for me and my family,” said Ruiz. “I just think he would be happy for us.”