Father’s tribute to decorated Captain killed by exploding tyre


By Rory Reynolds

THE dad of a young US air force captain who was killed when a tyre exploded in her hands has paid tribute to his beloved daughter.

Captain Jenna Wilcox died while on holiday in Scotland with her husband, also an air force officer, after surviving an IED blast in Afghanistan.

Hundreds of friends, family and colleagues gathered at RAF Mildenhall in Suffolk to pay tribute to the 27-year-old, who was decorated for bravery after a year-long tour of Nangarhar province.

Those attending the memorial service heard how Jenna, known for her cheerful demeanour and professional nature, would be sadly missed by the 100th Civil Engineer Squadron.

Her father Peter Sielski told her friends and fellow airmen and women that he did not see his daughter as Captain Wilcox of the U.S. Air Force, but as his little girl.

He said: “We have to remember not how Jenna died, but how she lived.”

He also thanked the US Air Force for “giving Jenna the opportunity to fulfill her dreams.”

Jenna’s commanding officer Lt Col Matt Greene, added that “her life was full of purpose and promise.”

Addressing her family, he told them “Jenna’s Air Force family joins you in honouring her life and mourning her loss.”

Jenna and her husband Scott were on holiday in Scotland after both recently returning from Afghanistan when the freak accident occurred.

They changed the tyre on their black BMW Z3 after spotting a bulge, but could not fit the worn tyre in the luggage-filled boot, leaving Jenna to sit it on her lap.

She survived the explosion in Dalkeith, Midlothian, but died five days later at the Western General Hospital in Edinburgh earlier this month.

While serving in Afghanistan Jenna kept a blog about her experiences, and wrote about when her convoy was hit by an IED and about how she felt serving with her husband.

She wrote: “Love in a war zone unlike love anywhere else. It is simple. Unrefined. There are no quarrels, because death is imminent. Do you really want your last conversation to be in anger?

“If there is a disagreement, it is resolved at the fastest of pace because death is imminent. Every conversation starts, ends and is heavily peppered with ‘I love you’.”

Chaplain Lieutenant Colonel Frederick Viccellio, of RAF Mildenhall chapel, said of all the things the Air Force does, supporting each other is “what we do best.”

He added: “It’s always amazing to see how units come together in the face of tragedy to lift up those who need it.”