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Officer killed in Afghanistan shooting honored

May. 5, 2011 - 07:22PM   |   Last Updated: May. 5, 2011 - 07:22PM  |  
Maj. Philip D. Ambard was laid to rest at the Air Force Academy's cemetery May 5. Ambard, who taught foreign languages at the academy, was killed by an Afghan military pilot who opened fire during a meeting at the Kabul airport April 27.
Maj. Philip D. Ambard was laid to rest at the Air Force Academy's cemetery May 5. Ambard, who taught foreign languages at the academy, was killed by an Afghan military pilot who opened fire during a meeting at the Kabul airport April 27. (Air Force Academy via the Associated Press)
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AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. — An Air Force officer who was among nine Americans recently killed in Kabul was praised as hardworking and humble Thursday by his family and officials at the Air Force Academy, where he taught foreign languages.

Maj. Philip Ambard's flag-draped casket was carried into the Cadet Chapel by six pallbearers between a saber cordon of 44 cadets in blue dress uniforms. Flags on public buildings in Colorado flew at half-staff in his honor.

Ambard was buried at the academy's cemetery after the service in the chapel. The pallbearers lifted the U.S. flag off the polished wood coffin and held it like a canopy while an officer read citations for five medals Ambard received, including the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart.

He was killed by an Afghan military pilot who opened fire during a meeting at the Kabul airport on April 27. Family members said the gunman was distressed over personal finances.

Ambard was at the airport as part of a NATO team training the Afghan air force.

"His life was about helping others. He believed in working hard as a way to help others," said Brig. Gen. Dana Born, dean of faculty at the academy.

During the service, his family recalled his jokes and pranks. Once, after a cold camping trip, he took off his shoes, covered his toes with black shoe polish and then shouted to his wife that he had frost bite.

The family also recited what they called his family motto: "Don't quit, don't fail, and don't get anyone pregnant."

Ambard's wife, Linda, a physical education teacher at Falcon Elementary School in the Colorado Springs area, said her husband helped her at coaching events.

"All my students know my husband, and sometimes I think they like him more than me because he breaks the rules, and I don't," she said.

Toward the end of the graveside service, Born knelt and handed the flag to Linda Ambard and thanked her for her husband's service.

"He was driven by the opportunity that America offered, and he didn't want to waste that," Born said of the fact that Ambard was a native of Venezuela and immigrated to the U.S.

Ambard listed his hometown as Edmonds, Wash. He joined the Air Force Academy faculty in 2003. He finished a doctoral program at the University of Denver last year and was to return to the academy after his one-year deployment to Afghanistan.

He was killed in a shooting that left dead eight U.S. Air Force personnel and a U.S. civilian contractor, and injured five Afghan soldiers. Two of the dead were Air Force Academy graduates: Lt. Col. Frank Bryant of Knoxville, Tenn., and Maj. David Brodeur of Auburn, Mass.

Also killed were Maj. Jeffrey O. Ausborn of Gadsden, Ala.; Master Sgt. Tara R. Brown of Deltona, Fla.; Maj. Raymond G. Estelle II of New Haven, Conn.; Capt. Nathan J. Nylander of Hockley, Texas; and Capt. Charles A. Ransom, 31, of Midlothian, Va. The slain contractor's name was not immediately available.

Afghan officials identified the gunman as Ahmad Gul, 48, of Kabul province. They said he was killed later in an exchange of gunfire.

The gunman's brother, Dr. Mohammad Hassan Sahibi, told a Kabul television station that his brother had no connection with the Taliban or al-Qaida. Afghan President Hamid Karzai condemned the shooting and offered his condolences to the victims' families.

Ambard is survived by his wife and five children. Two of the children are Air Force Academy graduates and currently serve in the military; another is a cadet at the academy.

One is a student at the University of Denver, and another is in the Army, stationed at Walter Reed Medical Center.

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