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U.S. Awards Ky. National Guard Airman Nation's Second Highest Honor

U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff David Goldfein (left) pins the Air Force Cross on Kentucky Air National Guard Combat Controller Daniel Keller (right) during ceremony
U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff David Goldfein (left) pins the Air Force Cross on Kentucky Air National Guard Combat Controller Daniel Keller (right) during ceremony

State and national officials gathered for a ceremony last week to honor Kentucky Air National Guard Combat Controller Daniel Keller and give him one of the nation’s highest honors.

Keller received the Air Force Cross, the nation’s second highest medal for combat valor, because of his bravery during a 2017 mission in Afghanistan. Family, friends and officials including Governor Matt Bevin attended the ceremony, applauding Keller for his service.

U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff David Goldfein presented the medal to Keller; he said only 10 airmen have received it since 9/11.

“When you read the citation and you see what Dan and his team did, they make the impossible look possible,” Goldfein said. “It’s an incredible example of the young men and women who stand up, raise their right hand, and come join us to serve.”

According to the citation, Keller’s team was fighting for 15 hours when an explosion killed four of his teammates and wounded 31 others. The blast injured him, but he continued fighting attackers and risked his life to help evacuate others.

Keller’s parents wiped away tears, and he hugged his wife after Goldfein presented the medal at Friday’s ceremony. Keller said he is thankful for the medal, but that he thought of his teammates as he was recognized. He said he wishes the mission ended differently, and wants people to remember slain Americans like Aaron Butler -- who Keller considered to be a brother.

“It is amazing and extremely humbling that the Air Force did this for me, but I just don’t want people to forget that it was a really bad day for a lot of really great Americans -- specifically for Aaron [and] Aaron’s family,” Keller said. “Nobody ever wishes this [recognition] for themselves. Because ideally, if everything would’ve went right, we wouldn’t have been here today.”

Keller said he will continue working full time at the Air National Guard.

 

Kyeland Jackson is an Associate Producer for WFPL News.