MACDILL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. --
“I think our Air Force creed sums him up best - wingman, leader, warrior,” reflected Lt. Col. N’Keiba Estelle, when asked about her husband. “He was always willing to help fix a problem and to listen to you and always willing to bring a smile to everybody’s face, whether that was dancing around the house or just helping out as a husband or a father.”
Maj. Raymond G. Estelle II enlisted in the Air Force in 1989 and commissioned as an officer in 1998. In 2011, he was deployed as the communications advisor for the Afghan Air Force with the 838th Air Expeditionary Advisory Group in Kabul, Afghanistan, during Operation Enduring Freedom.
On April 27, 2011, he was one of nine personnel killed in action by an Afghan Air Force pilot.
Maj. Estelle had previously served as the 6th Communications Squadron’s chief of maintenance; his wife is now the 6th CS commander.
“It was his first unit as an officer and my first unit as an officer,” said Estelle. “It just feels like coming home. There are people in the squadron who were here when my husband and I were both lieutenants here. I couldn’t ask for better squadron members. It has been very special.”
Estelle was five weeks into maternity leave with her second child when she was given the horrific news concerning her husband.
“You see it in the movies…the service people come up to your doorstep, and I just remember thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, why are they here,’” Estelle recollected. “It was time for me to feed my son so I actually refused to go to the door so I could feed him. I think it was a protection mechanism because everyone knows it’s not going to be good when military people show up on your front doorstep.”
After receiving the traumatic news, she faced and continues to face, constant reminders of her husband, especially through significant milestones in her children’s lives; however, thanks to family, coworkers and friends, she is able to remain resilient and push through the tough times.
“I think any widow would agree that it takes a village to help get through such a loss,” said Estelle. “I just take it day by day, pray a lot and put my faith in God to get me through.”
To honor Maj. Estelle and the eight other members on that team who lost their lives that day, MacDill banded together to name the 6th CS building after him in 2013 as well as host an annual 5K run and weightlifting competition.
“I believe that at the time, unit personnel and leadership felt this was the best way to recognize Ray and everything that he stood for as an Airman, especially since he was a huge physical fitness advocate,” said Estelle. “For me, this event represents all nine heroes who lost their lives and it allows us to take that time out of our day to pay tribute to them and on a larger scale, remember all military service members who have sacrificed their life and their service to our country.”
Maj. Estelle’s legacy lives on at MacDill and this year, his family was able to participate in the event and see the impact he has made.
“It was amazing to see everyone out here running to remember my dad,” said Estelle’s daughter, Shayla. “I’m so proud to see the impact he still has on people to this day.”
Towards the end of the run, Estelle’s son, Raymond III, took the the 6th CS guidon and led their final chant of the run, “6th Comm, Wired up!”
“Fired up!” shouted the squadron.