Sergeant Joe Lemm

Joe Lemm was a small town farm kid. He spent his early years on his grandfather’s farm. Folks in his hometown, Beemer, Nebraska a village of about 700 residents, remember him well. Jan Liermann a close neighbor, living close to his mother, Shirley, who sold spices and household goods at local craft markets. She speaks highly of him. “Joe came back a lot. He talked to the school, right after 9/11. He made it more personal.” He was a New York City police officer back home in Nebraska to speak to high school students about life in his adopted city, and the tragedy that touched every American.

In more recent years, when New York Detective Joseph Lemm would visit, he raved about his life in the city, its diversity and his job with the police force, born of a childhood dream, all in an accent increasingly marked by the Bronx. Joe rose to be a detective in the New York department nearly two years ago. It was a very different lifestyle from Beemer, where he played football on an eight-man team, drove up and down Main Street in his black-and-white Thunderbird, graduating in a high school class of 24 students.

Even so, the same deep mourning of this small village for their young man who made good, was mirrored in the big city of New York, as they mourned the loss of a well respected Detective. In the rainy drizzel, flags flew half mast both places. Michael J. Palladino, the head of the detectives’ union, noted, “A New York City detective is not supposed to lose his life this way." Joe enjoyed playing basketball, being on his boat, rooting for the Philadelphia Eagles, hunting, and spending time with friends and family. His partner, Detective John McCrossen, recalled how Joe loved to coax friends to join him fishing on his boat.

He joined the Air Force, transitioning to the 106th Security Forces Squadron in 2008 before joining the 105th Base Defense Squadron in 2010. He deployed to Afghanistan from January to June 2013, and to Iraq from June to December 2011. Since 2011, Joe had been deployed to the Middle East three times. He was expected to complete his third tour next May. This towering 6-foot-5-inch gentle giant was also a doting husband and father of two, who managed to get a furlough just to see his daughter perform in an “American Idol”-style singing competition near his home in Westchester during a previous deployment to Afghanistan in 2013.

Joe joined the New York City Police Department in 2000. He was a big man. Quiet, reserved, an unassuming hero, known as “Superman” by his NYPD colleagues because of his square jaw and resemblance to actor Christopher Reeve. He served the people of the 48th Precinct, the Bronx Street Crime Unit and the Bronx Warrant Squad, a dangerous assignment that involved pursuing fugitives wanted in violent crimes. Credited with 590 arrests, he received numerous awards and commendations. "He really was Superman, it's hard not to smile when you recall his antics. It's harder still to believe that he's gone... He embodied honor to the end."” Maj. John Torres, chaplain for the Air National Guard's 105th Airlift Wing recalled during the hour-long 'ramp ceremony.

Detective Lemm lived in Harrison, N.Y., in Westchester County, with his wife, Christine, and two children: a teenage daughter, Brooke, and a younger son, Ryan.

Joe's son, Ryan, and his daughter, Brooke, cried as they touched the coffin from the back of the hearse. His wife, Christine, was helped from the hangar by to New York City police officers and also briefly touched the casket.

From Dover, he was escorted back to New York with an NYPD motorcycle escort. First responders from the area, including police and firefighters, were stationed on many Thruway overpasses to salute him as the procession passed by.

United States Air National Guardsman Technical Sergeant Joseph G. Lemm, 45, of Bronx, New York, forfeited his life in the line of duty, 21 December 2015, when a cowardly suicide bomber drove his explosive laden motorcycle and detonated himself into the a group of six airmen investigators, in Bagram Afghanistan. As agents and airmen they were conducting a patrol as part of an investigation. His current billet was as security for the special agents for the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, which investigates felony-level crimes in the U.S. and overseas. He was assigned to the 105th Security Forces Squadron at Stewart Air National Guard Base, New York, in support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel.

His funeral Mass was in New York City, celebrated by Cardinal Timothy Dolan, assisted by Rev. Christopher Monturo, pastor of St. Anthony of Padua at St. Patrick's Cathedral.

After a military helicopter flyover, the funeral procession went to Gate of Heaven Cemetery in Hawthorne, receiving full police and military honors. Police officers from many departments and military service members were at Saint Patrick's and in the procession from Manhattan to the cemetery. Police and fire departments from municipalities along the funeral route also honored the detective.

He is survived in West Harrison by his wife, Christine, a 17-year-old daughter, Brooke Lemm, and four-year-old son, Ryan Lemm.

Brigadier General David Julazadeh, 455th Air Expeditionary Wing commander, told his Airmen in a memorial service for the fallen six brothers and sister in arms, “This was a tragic loss for our Air Force family and all our mission partners here in Afghanistan. These amazing Airmen significantly improved the safety and security of US and Coalition forces across the country. I ask you to keep these heroes and their families in your thoughts through this holiday season.”

Brigadier General Keith Givens, OSI commander further remarked; "The deaths of the four OSI agents make Monday's attack the deadliest day in our command's history."

"Our heartfelt sympathies go out to the families and friends of those affected in this tragic incident, especially during this holiday season," Army Brig. Gen. William Shoffner, a spokesman for NATO's Resolute Support mission in Kabul, said in a statement.

In his released remarks, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter called the attack "a painful reminder of the dangers our troops face every day in Afghanistan."

The Taliban has claimed responsibility for the attack, the deadliest on international forces there since August. Bagram, around 40 km (25 miles) north of Kabul, is one of the main bases for the remaining 9,800 U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

The suicide attack came just a few days shy of the one-year anniversary of the United States and NATO formally ending their combat mission in the country.

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