Bahrman is originally from Skandia, Mich.
Bahrman was involved in handling the remains of 105 casualties, including 14 children, while deployed to Afghanistan from December 2008 to December 2009. The cook was assigned to 3rd Brigade Combat Team’s mortuary affairs team during that year because his cooking skills weren’t needed at Forward Operating Base Shank.
His superiors say Bahrman often volunteered to handle remains of children so that fellow soldiers with children would not have to suffer the emotional trauma.
“I always thought to myself that it’s better me doing the job than one of my fellow soldiers who wouldn’t be able to take on the burden of sending soldiers or even local nationals back to their families,” Bahrman told Army Times.
“He stared the absolute worst part of war in the face countless times,” said Maj. Andrew DeKever, his officer in charge during the deployment. “Whenever we received word that someone had been killed and was being brought to us for processing, I would always find Specialist Bahrman at the MA tent, volunteering his services even when he wasn’t scheduled to be on shift.”
Not only did Bahrman master “the technical aspects of being a 29M, he rose to the occasion as a leader in the eyes of the other members of his team, in addition to sacrificing himself routinely to protect other members of the team from the emotional scars of this field,” DeKever said.
Avila is from Woodside, N.Y.
Avila is well-known to his underprivileged neighbors in Queens, N.Y., where he resurrected a failing Boy Scout troop and recruited Scouts from around the neighborhood.
“Staff Sergeant. Avila is a mentor to underprivileged children on a daily basis,” said retired Sgt. 1st Class James Ortiz. “He is a scoutmaster and strong father figure to many, if not all, the children of his Scout troop. The values that Staff Sergeant Avila imparts to these children are the same Army values that Staff Sergeant Avila has learned and benefited from throughout his Army career.”
Avila has the Scout troop involved in community projects such as park restoration, food-pantry collections and other fundraising efforts. The troop offers children opportunities that some haven’t had before, such as camping and hiking outside the urban area. Avila and the Scouts worked with local community service organizations to collect and store camping gear for the troop.
“I was a Boy Scout as a youth in my neighborhood, and upon returning from a tour in Iraq, I found that there was no longer a scouting program,” Avila said. “I wanted to play a role in molding our youth, our future … I wanted to give our youths the opportunity I had.”
“Despite physical limitations from his injuries on the battlefields of Iraq, Staff Sergeant Avila continues to be a positive role model off the battlefield. He is a hero every single day,” Ortiz said.