Soldier Honored: James W. Ponder III
Branch of Service: Army
Rank: Master Sergeant
Master Sergeant James W. Ponder III, 36, of Franklin, Tenn., was assigned to the Headquarters Company, 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne) at Fort Campbell, Ky., and served during Operation Enduring Freedom. On June 28, 2005, MSgt. Ponder was killed when his MH-47 Chinook helicopter crashed in eastern Afghanistan.
MSgt. Ponder, a flight commander on short-term deployment at Hunter Army Airfield in Georgia, briefly attended Auburn University before enlisting in the Army as a Chinook helicopter repairman. After graduation from Basic Training, he was assigned to Korea, where he became a member of a special operations unit known as the Night Stalkers in 1992. MSgt. Ponder was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart, the Meritorious Service Medals, the Air Medal with Valor device and the Combat Action Badge.
MSgt. Ponder is remembered by members of his unit as a no-nonsense soldier who was devoted to his country. “Trey (as family and friends knew him) was a straight talker, just a plain hands-on kinda guy,” said MSgt. Thomas Wagoner.
“He was my best friend,” MSgt. Ponder’s daughter said. “I was six years old when he passed. At the time, I did not understand that my best friend was not coming home. Over the years, I’ve been told that I am a lot like him. He was quiet but never ceased to make anyone laugh. Today, I remember my dad with a smile.”
One of MSgt. Ponder’s daughters is a Folds of Honor Scholarship recipient.