Forrest Sibley, SSGT, U.S. Air Force, Afghanistan
Author: Michele Gerlach
SSGT forest B. Sibley [U.S. Air Force photo]
Just before Staff Sgt. Forrest Sibley left the States for his fourth tour of duty in the Middle East, he visited the 100 acres he had purchased in the Bradley area. “He had some things he wanted his dad and me to get done for him while he was gone,” Raiford Sibley said. “He loved it there."
If Forrest Sibley loved the woods, he learned that love while spending time with his grandparents, Raiford and Betty Jo Sibley, at their place near Blue Lake. The elder Sibleys have had a cabin in the county for years. They split their time between the woods and their home in Gulf Breeze, and frequently attend First Baptist Church in Andalusia. “That was his favorite retreat,” Sibley said. “When he was off on leave, he’d come there.” Grandfather and grandson had a long talk during that visit. “He was doing what he wanted to do, and said he couldn’t think of anything better.”
Forrest Brent Sibley, 31, was assigned to the 21st Special Tactics Squadron based at Fort Bragg’s Pope Field. He and Capt. Matthew D. Roland, 27, died in August. Two men wearing Afghan military uniforms who opened fire within an Afghan National Defense and Security Forces compound in Helmand province and killed the two airmen. The two shooters were killed when service members returned fire.
Forrest Sibley graduated from high school in Oneonta, Ala., but his grandfather, Ray Sibley, said school was never his thing. The Air Force fit him to a T. “He always has been a great, fine, young man,” Sibley said. “He never gave us any trouble, and always had a desire to help someone else.” Although he knew his grandson was loved by his friends and families, he is still overwhelmed by the response to Forrest’s death.
More than 1,000 attended a memorial at Hurlburt Field, the Pensacola News-Journal reported. And Gulf Coast residents lined the roadways from Fort Walton Beach to the Naal Air Station for his procession. “It was the most amazing thing. I couldn’t get over it,” Sibley said. “I knew he had gotten a lot of awards, but the number of people who lined the roads from Fort Walton to the Naval Air Station …. They didn’t know him. That was just national, civic pride.”
And it’s an emotion with which this grandfather Ray, a World War II veteran, can identify. “My brother was wounded in France in World War II,” he said. “We felt that urge to go after that. I was in the Pacific. I was lucky. “And I think that had some influence in his wanting to go into service,” he said. Forrest Sibley had been awarded four Bronze Stars, received two Purple Hearts, and the Air Force Commendation medal. Many members of his unit came home for the services in his honor. “That’s the most close-knit organization I’ve ever been around. It was unbelievable.”
As part of the burial ceremony, each member of his group removed a service pin, and using a mallet, hammered his pin into Forrest’s wooden casket. “They honored him so much,” Sibley said.
Forrest Sibley also is survived by his parents, Brent Sibley and Suzi Fernandez; his sister, Jordan Sibley; his brother, Spenser Fernandez; and step-brother, Justin Fernandez. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions can be made to the Combat Control Association (CCA) https://usafcca.org/mdb/donations/.