EDMONDS, WA, US
U. S. Air Force
MAJ, 460TH SPACE COMMUNICATION SQD, BUCKLEY AFB, CO
04/27/2011, KABUL, AFGHANISTAN
Major Ambard was a foreign-language professor at the Air Force Academy, his daughter, Air Force First Liuetenant Emily Short, told the Colorado Springs Gazette.
“He was a great teacher, he was a great father,” Short said. “He was a family man through and through. His whole being was dedicated to his family.” He was a father of five.
Major Philip Ambard inspired achievement in everyone around him. But he never pushed anyone harder than he drove himself.
A Venezuelan immigrant who came to America when he was 12, Ambard started as an enlisted airmen and zoomed through the ranks during a 25-year career. Raised in Edmonds, Washington, he earned his bachelor’s degree in night school in addition to a Masters degree from the University of Colorado and a Ph.D. at the University of Denver.
Ambard wanted to teach at the Academy and got a job in the school’s department of foreign languages. He had a gift for French in addition to his fluency in his native Spanish. Ambard was honored as an outstanding professor in 2005 and the school’s company grade officer of the year for 2006. Not bad for a kid who had to teach himself English.
“He pushed all of us,” his Emily said Thursday. “His word for us was ‘Don’t do it the hard way, the way I did.’”
Born in Caracas, Ambard never lost his admiration for his adopted land. When he leaned English, he sought perfection and spoke without an accent. He told his children to be grateful for the gifts that come with American citizenship.
The Academy’s dean, Brigadier General Dana Born hand-picked Ambard to work on her staff as executive officer in 2007. Ambard married someone who understood his drive. His wife of 23 years, Linda, is a teacher and a noted marathon runner.
Phil Ambard didn’t accomplish things for selfish reasons, she explained. Earning an officer’s rank, all the education, the dedication to the Air Force was all about building a better life for his family. Linda Ambard said she will follow through with her plan to run 10 marathons this year. Each stride will be for Phil, she said. “It’s the whispered prayers of my heart and my feet,” she said
Ambard was a busy man, but found time for Boy Scouts, church and other community activities. According to Emily ,“I will be coming back to the academy and following in my dad’s footsteps.” It’s an easy path for her to see.
“The footprints are gigantic.”
From Phils wife Linda – Jan 2012: As I face a year without seeing my Phil, I am reminded of how happy and proud he was lst year this time. While Phil was never one to flaunt his many awards and achievements, he pushed himself harder than anyone I have ever known to win those awards not for recognition as some might assume, but the awards meant job stability and longevity. When I would complain about his hours or work focus, he would remind me of all that the military had given us. Few know exactly how far this family had come.
Phil joined the Air Force at the age of 18 to get his United States citizenship. He was still mastering the language and he had barely graduated from high school. When we met, Phil was barely 21. He was an airmen first class. I was 27 and a mom to three children. I worked at the base pool and at the gas station just off of base. Phil did not believe in welfare or handouts, thus he worked as a newspaper boy before work. He was so motivated that he won many awards with the Idaho Statesman. We lived on rice and beans for years. Fun times were walks, picnics, the swimming pool because it was free for us, the gym, and board games. We made our fun when Phil was home which was exactly half of the year. When he wasn’t being volunteered for tdys, he volunteered because the tdy money often carried us. Those tdy times away from home came at a cost, however.
Phil missed so many family events. He missed major surgeries, graduations, births, behavior issues, moves, broken cars and appliances, and he missed the joy of the day to day family time. My job for years was to be that stable secure parent. We chose for me to stay home not because we didn’t need the money that a teaching job would have provided for us, but because we knew that we had one chance to get our family right and that there were no do overs. One of the many sacrifices I gave up was being a single parent half of the time to five children. the other half of the time, Phil was home being a Disneyland parent because he was gone so much. I didn’t complain because I knew that my soldier was doing what he felt he needed to do to provide for us, but more than that, he felt a calling to serve his adopted country. it is that calling that I could not fight. I chose to support him and to be the home fires as he laced up his combat boots and strapped on his gun.
One particular time frame was very, very difficult. Our marriage took a beating. While we recovered and rebounded, the commitment and drive Phil had cost us so much in terms of shared family time. While we lived in Bitburg, Germany, Phil became motivated to get his bachelor’s degree. Between being deployed six months a year, going to leadership school, clepping, and taking 21 credit hours at a time, there was nothing left for any of us. Phil still own the record for number of passed clep tests (over 200 credits). He finished a bachelor’s degree in 15 months. He then deployed for 15 out of the last 18 months we were in Bitburg. In the meantime, I had three teenagers, two grade school children, and a high pressure job of running the child development center ( a very broken center). The cost was tremendous as the missed family events mounted, but still as a family we were committed to serving our country.
While Phil could have left the military, he never once wavered. The more rank he achieved, the more he realized that his work mattered and that he was impacting change. He was so proud of the many people he mentored along the way. Every where we went, Phil eschewed the military lifestyle. He loved serving our country. He could have taken the easy road after his Phd and returned to the Air Force Academy, but that was not Phil’s style. He felt that if he deployed, one less parent would have to deploy away from their family. He felt that it was his turn and that he had something to give back. He believed in what he was doing which made his death at the hands of someone he trusted even more unthinkable. He taught me so much about commitment and passion for his life’s work. While he couldn’t effect change as an enlisted airman, he worked, sometimes at the expense of his family and his own personal time, to move into a position where he could effect change. It was only to me that he ever voiced dissent or doubts. To all others, he coined the phrase, “Consider it done.” When Phil uttered those words, he found a way to do what he had committed to doing. He would do whatever he had to do to complete the task.
I suppose that I blog and speak as a way to carry on Phil’s lifesong. Phil was extremely quiet about his humble roots, but it is in knowing of a poor immigrant boy’s story that people understand the fires that fueled Phil to a commitment and a loyalty to the United States Air Force that spanned 26 years and would have lasted until the Air Force booted him out. His commitment was truly more than the pay check. He was deeply appreciative of the opportunities afforded to him through the military and he had seen corruption in the Venezuelan militaries. He had seen a rampant sense of indifference in the French military. Phil owed sevice to both countries, but he chose the American military and then he gave so much more than he had to give. Phil did not have a sense of entitlement, he had a spirit of giving. In that spirit of giving, he gave his youth to our country, he gave four of five of our children to the military, he gave countless volunteer hours to mentor and help others, and he gave his life.
Phil would have said that all of the accolades were too much. He never saw his worth, but he deserved everything he has received and so much more. Phil was a man that lived his life to the fullest. I do not think any person has crammed more life into 44 years of living. I can only aspire to leave the same ripples when I am received into the arms of heaven. His death continues to inspire others, and it is in the inspiration that motivates a person into action that deeds and lifes are paid forward. I honor Phil and the life he had by speaking and writing about military loss. I know that there are others who are more articulate and more able to be the face of military loss, but I have chosen to step up and embrace the purpose I was given to my own life when Phil was assassinated. I honor Phil and the life we had together by being the woman I am meant to be.