I first met Technical Sergeant Becky DiCecio in the summer of 2019, when we selected her from five of her peers to lead the Flight Medicine Clinic as the senior enlisted leader. I am Lt Col Katie Shaw, and I was Becky’s commander.
My first impression of Becky was that she was full of positive energy, eager to serve and lead, driven to succeed, and she had a tremendous connection to her church. I also found her to be very introspective and self-reflective. During a general time period when there was a lack of leadership in her specialty area, she shone like a light with her willingness to step-up, step-out, and contribute. She was full of life and full of feeling, and Becky loved to have fun. She even got me to start her parking lot water balloon fight on a Resiliency Day… inside, at close range, against a fellow Lieutenant Colonel.
Becky’s dedicated service to her nation included duty stations at Hill Air Force Base (AFB) in Utah; Aviano Air Base in Italy; and Barksdale AFB in Louisiana. She also deployed to Iraq where she treated combat-wounded patients in her role as a Flight Medicine Medical Technician. Becky spent her career taking care of a special subset of active duty members with inherently higher risk jobs: aviators, aircrew, nuclear weapons maintainers, Security Forces, EOD aka Bomb Squad, and Fire Department personnel.
In addition to Flight Medicine, Becky also specialized in the critical Personnel Reliability and Accountability Program. She ensured that the members working with nuclear weapons or nuclear-capable systems (such as the B-52 at Barksdale AFB) and armed Security Forces personnel were mentally and medically ready to do their jobs. In doing so, she was integral to ensuring nuclear safety for our nation and the world. Her knowledge and experience was recognized with the Nuclear Special Experience Identifier Award.
Throughout her career, four main themes stood out: First and foremost, she was a medic and an exceptional one. She was also an Instructor, a Fitness guru, and she was always engaged in Community Service in a variety of ways.
As a Medic, she was a First Responder and key member of Field Response Team (FRT). In one example, she was an FRT member for the 2013 NATO Strike Exercise, where she supported 10 nations and 38 sorties, resulting in the Wing being designated "Mission Ready." Once, on off-duty time, she was first on-scene to a three-car motor vehicle accident, where she rendered treatment to four victims and extracted a child trapped under vehicle, saving the child's life. In another example, she responded to an aircraft ground emergency and helped return the crew to duty in less than 24 hours. She was a supporting medic for every single Air Show at every base she was stationed. She even volunteered as a medic, donating 11 off-duty hours to coordinate air evacuation for a critical patient - immediate care that saved the patient’s life.
While deployed to Balad Air Base, Iraq, Becky served her duty and also volunteered her extra time during her deployment to Iraq. She was integral to the Air Force Theater Hospital, a Level 3 hospital with Level 1 (highest) trauma capabilities that resulted in 98% survival rates for patients who arrived through the trauma bay doors. Trauma calls happened daily, along with several mass casualty events throughout the deployment. When the patients were brought in, they came in on NATO litters through an overhang with a HUGE American flag lining the ceiling. If they were able to see that flag, they knew they were in US hands and would survive. Becky dedicated 27 volunteer hours at the Combat Aeromedical Staging Facility (CASF) where combat-wounded patients were prepared for air evacuation to Germany.
Her list of roles as an Instructor is extensive: Wing John C. Maxwell Gold Leadership Training Facilitator; Lead Squadron Resiliency Training Advisor; Basic Life Support Instructor; TeamSTEPPS instructor (4-hr courses on medical team communication for patient safety); Emergency Medical Technician Instructor; Self-Aid Buddy Care Instructor; Medical Group Personnel Reliability Program Training Monitor; Awanas Instructor at church. These are all volunteer efforts or extra duties to which she dedicated her time.
The teams she was a member of won organizational recognition at every base: “Flawless” Nuclear Surety Inspection, Outstanding Performer and two-times “Outstanding” Operational Readiness Exercise (war game) results. 2012 ORI "Excellent" rating; Operational Readiness Inspection (ORI) Outstanding Performer by ACC/IG team in 2005 with an overall HQ/IG "Excellent" rating. Zero Finding in “The Joint Commission” inspection; Health Services Inspection “Outstanding” and Best Ambulatory Clinic Patient Safety Program Of The Year.
In one unique military exercise, Becky was a team member in the Rabbit Round-up. She removed 13 rabbits from the flight-line and averted damage to $40M aircraft. I smiled when I saw the rabbits referred to as FOD... Foreign Object Debris... items that can get sucked into jet engine, make the engine blow up and cause the plane to crash. So, I like to think of this as Becky saving the lives of bunnies, aircrew and planes.
Because of her high professionalism, she was selected to lead multiple Distinguished Visitor tours, was coined by the Wing Command Chief and was interviewed on Air Force Network Radio, where she promoted Fitness/Nutrition and Tobacco Cessation programs to 9K people. At Hill AFB, she was selected the 388 Operations Group Support Professional of the Year. It is a HUGE accomplishment to be recognized with an annual award in the Ops Group as a medic.
As I reflect on her service, I was thinking about how much she "loved" (a verb), and how much she helped people. So, I went through every single line of every annual performance report and decoration to tally her impact.
- As an Instructor of Medics, she personally taught 467 medics, and certified 60 EMTs.
- As a medic providing emergency response support to eight installation events, including Air Shows, she protected 957,500 people.
- In her dedication to health and fitness, she motivated 40 people to quit using tobacco and she taught and motivated 810 people on fitness.
- She trained at least 113 people in resiliency.
- She ensured annual training for over 500 PRP staff members.
- She was a community volunteer in a variety of aspects on every single annual report.
- And, let’s not forget about the 13 bunnies she saved.
So, that totals about 1 million people (plus the bunnies) that she positively impacted, and that is only what is captured in annual reports. In those reports, you can almost see an inverted pyramid of positive impact… growing numbers every year. And, these numbers don’t include every patient she cared for… or… every life she touched…. That number is countless.
The most resilient, driven and energetic among us also have battles going on in the inside. Becky died by suicide on December 2d, 2019, the day after her 36th birthday.
With such a loss, we must draw on strength from our faith, strength from each other, and strength from remembering… so that we always keep Becky alive in our thoughts and our lives.
I want to share two scriptures from Psalm 91 that capture God’s comfort:
Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day.
We know that Becky lives and delights in the arms of God. She is his child, and He holds her now. In the middle of the sadness, there is always hope. I want to share what hope has looked like to me. It looks like a smile that breaks through even when you don’t feel like smiling. Hope shows itself in the healing conversations that we have with each other. Hope is a song that comes on the radio at just the right time. A while back… to encourage her… I texted Becky a song to listen to that had just come out, called "Burn the Ships." It was fitting to the growth she was pursuing at that moment in time. In the weeks after her loss, that song came on multiple times when the squadron leadership team was together, including right before the service at Becky’s church, the Church of the Cross. That is a bright spot… it is a message… it is hope.
When I think about Becky’s life here on earth, I like to remember how she was that first week I met her. Bubbly, Full of life, Energetic, Driven, Leading, Hopeful and Having Fun. When I think of her where she lives now, I draw from the chorus of another song, a song named "Priceless": Becky, when I think of you now, “I see you dressed in white, every wrong made right, and I see a rose come to bloom at the sight of you.”
In the days and years that follow loss, amidst the flood of thoughts that sometimes fleet and sometimes stay, there are so many things that we could choose to focus on. I would like to leave you with my thoughts and hope that we could focus on that which is good and pure and righteous. As we move forward to our new normal:
- May we always put on the lens of compassion.
- May we always extend grace to each other.
- May we continue to have healing conversations.
- May our eyes be open to the bright spots in the days to come, and
- May we always be blessed with hope.
I conclude with a scripture from Romans 8:38: For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Jesus our Lord.