MacDill defenders honor 1st Lt. Joseph Helton, a fallen hero

  • Published
  • By Story by Airman 1st Class Sterling Sutton
  • 6th Air Refueling Wing

In recognition of fallen hero, 1st Lt. Joseph Helton, Team MacDill hosted its 14th annual memorial ceremony and 5K run on base Sept. 13, 2023.

Helton, a member of the 6th Security Forces Squadron, was killed during a deployment to Iraq in 2009, when a vehicle he was traveling in struck an improvised explosive device.

For those at MacDill who worked alongside Helton, the remembrance events not only serve as a way to honor him, but to also show support to his family.

“I was a SSgt at the 6 SFS when Lt. Helton joined the 6th SFS,” said Lt. Elmer Smith, 6th SFS, supervisory police officer, “ These events are a way to take time to think about those defenders we have lost and cherish what we have. I always enjoy seeing his mother Jiffy smiling and motivating the next generation of Airmen!”

Helton’s unwavering commitment to his squadron and his dedication to the mission has continued to leave a mark on service members assigned to MacDill.

“Lt. Helton’s story is a very inspirational reminder that at the core of our military is a culture of selflessness and sacrifice, said Airman James Tobin, 6th Operational Medical Readiness Squadron public health technician. “It was an honor to speak with his mother and hear about the lives he impacted.”

Every year since his passing, the 6th SFS and personnel assigned to MacDill, have hosted the memorial and 5 k to pay tribute to Helton’s heroism and leadership. This year, the base also held a fitness competition, golf tournament and the event continues to grow.

“The Helton Hall Memorial Run was a great and challenging event to honor 1st Lt. Helton,” said Airman 1st Class Ercy Ruiz Navarro, 6th Operational Medical Readiness Squadron public health technician. “Those who served with him really pushed his motto ‘Don’t be a weak sauce’ and I look forward to participating next year”.

Helton’s sacrifice serves as a reminder of the high cost of freedom and his memory continues to inspire acts of service.