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EOD Airman speaks at Veterans Appreciation event

EOD Airman

(U.S. Air Force photo/Kristin Stewart)

DEFUNIAK SPRINGS, Fla. -- The Airman described the highs and lows of six deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. With a few lighthearted anecdotes and heartfelt moments, he recalled the day that his unit lost Tech Sgt. Anthony Capra.

Master Sgt. Michael Pereira, 96th Civil Engineer Group explosive ordnance disposal equipment section chief, shared his combat experience during a Veterans Appreciation Walton County Chamber breakfast  Nov. 3 in Defuniak Springs.

“Tech Sgt. Capra was our first loss in the Global War on Terror and it was a wakeup call,” said Pereira. “On a previous tour, Capra responded to nearly 300 improvised explosive devices calls in 180 days and then he was just gone.”

In 2006, the unit lost three EOD team members in Iraq.

“We came into Baghdad with 20 and we flew home with 17,” said Pereira, who joined the Air Force in 2003. “The lessons we learned are used to train others in EOD.”

Pereira later described how a gradual increase in military presence in Afghanistan led to more IEDs in the area, resulting in 22 U.S. Army deaths.

As the EOD unit learned new enemy tactics they quickly spread the word to other military members, said Pereira.

For his contributions during these deployments Pereira earned two Bronze Star Medals, four Army Commendation Medals, and an Army Achievement Medal.

The New Jersey native concluded by expressing his appreciation for the communities support.

“You have no idea how much your support of veterans and active duty military has in this war,” said the Crestview resident of 10 years. “We are very appreciative of you and we are blessed to live in this community.”

Megan Harrison, Walton County Chamber president, thanked veterans and family members for their sacrifices and is grateful to have military members and veterans as a part of the community.

“It’s nice to hear these stories because we don’t get to see it, and we don’t know what goes on,” said Harrison.

The chamber breakfast hosted approximately 85 attendees, many of them either veterans or family members of military members.