Air Force Major Phil Ambard was a family man.
“From the time he was a young Airman Basic through his commission as an officer 16 years later, he has been warmly greeted and taken care of at each USO,” said his wife of 23 years, Linda Ambard. “When we flew to Germany for the first time, we had five children under the age of ten, but we were made to feel like the USO was ours—that we were family.”
“This USO family has never meant more to me than when my Phil was killed in action on 27 April 2011.”
Her Phil was among eight Air Force officers shot and killed at Kabul International Airport by a 50-year-old Afghan Air Corps pilot.
Linda was left devastated and in a fog.
Their five children, including three Air Force Academy graduates and one who was attending West Point, flew to Dover Air Force Base from all around the world to meet their mother and repatriate the remains of their father.
The pain was so fresh; Linda couldn’t coordinate any of her own travel. She had trouble remembering the gates and felt dizzy navigating the crowds.
“At every single airport where there was a USO, we were each met by USO staff who walked us to our gate, brought us drinks, and who stayed with us the entire time,” she said. “They didn’t know us, yet they stood with each and every one of us.”
In Texas, while buying a magazine, she learned that all of her bank accounts had been frozen due to Phil’s death. The USO representative was quick to offer her some money, pay for her purchase and even spoke to the bank on her behalf.
“When we arrived at Dover, the USO came out with many volunteers,” said Linda. “Once again they had representatives for each of us. They allowed us to talk, make jokes—our family’s way of dealing with the stress—and they sat with me as I broke down yet again.”
Afterward, the family returned to Colorado Springs for the funeral.
“The USO ensured we were all seated together and near the front of the airplane,” she said. “This was no easy feat to get seven of us together, yet they did it for us.”
Eight months later, Linda knew that she couldn’t celebrate Christmas at home, so the family flew to Hawaii. On the return trip, she and her cadet son spent 10 hours in the USO where their story eventually got out.
“The USO staff once again bent over backwards to make sure that we knew that people were walking with us and that we were still important to the USO family,” said Linda, “and I just want you to know that the USO was important to him and since his passing, the USO has meant so much to the Ambard and Short families.”
“He started as an immigrant boy,” she said, “but died as a man willing to stand up for the freedoms of all. He truly was an American hero.” — By Joseph Andrew Lee, USO Staff Writer
Phil Ambard, 44, was born in Caracas, Venezuela. He didn’t speak a word of English when he moved to the United States at the age of 12. After graduating from high school, he enlisted in the United States Air Force as an Airman Basic. He rose to the rank of Senior Master Sergeant (select) before he was commissioned as an officer and then rose to the rank of Major before he made the ultimate sacrifice for his country. He had recently graduated from Denver University with a Ph.D and his second master’s degree.
He is survived by his children Patrick, Emily, Alex, Tim and Josh, his daughter-in-law Karla and his wife Linda.