Bronze Star service, a family legacy

  • Published
  • By Jeremy Roman, 301st Fighter Wing Public Affairs

The greatest resource within the Air Force Reserve is its Airmen and we highlight an amazing Reserve Citizen Airman from the 44th Fighter Group** with an amazing story.

44 FG Maintenance Squadron Logistics Officer Capt. Elizabeth L. Van Patten, who earlier this year, was awarded the Bronze Star Medal in support of OPERATION FREEDOM’S SENTINEL as the 451st Air Expeditionary Squadron director of operations, 455th Air Expeditionary Wing, Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan in 2020. Her ability to lead through austere and high-risk environments is a testament to the experience she gained throughout her life.

In 2010, Van Patten was a staff sergeant at Dobbins Air Reserve Base, Marietta Ga., before earning her commission from Officer Training School, Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala., in 2014. The captain arrived to the 44 FG, when they were stationed at Tyndall AFB, Fla., in August 2018. She was one of the members there when Hurricane Michael struck Tyndall and the group had to recover, operate and eventually move 89 miles west to their current location, Eglin AFB, Fla.

Yet her ability, service and devotion to duty in 2020 should come as no surprise.

When Van Patten was administered the oath of office as a second lieutenant on May 1, 2014, it was given by her father, COL (ret) James G. Van Patten Jr., U.S. Army Airborne Ranger, who is a fellow recipient of the Bronze Star. Coincidentally, Capt. Van Patten’s grandfather, U.S. Air Force Bomber Pilot and Maintenance Officer Col. (ret) James G. Van Patten Sr., was also a Bronze Star recipient.

“I’m the third generation of Van Pattens to receive the Bronze Star,” she said. “[This is] one of the awards I will be working on the rest of my career to live up to!”

Capt. Van Patten concluded by saying she cannot do what she does in the Air Force Reserve without the support of her mom and dad (Ellie & Jerry).



A Bronze star 1 ½ inches in circumscribing diameter. In the center thereof is a 3/16-inch diameter superimposed bronze star, the center line of all rays of both stars coinciding. The reverse has the inscription "HEROIC OR MERITORIOUS ACHIEVEMENT" and a space for the name of the recipient to be engraved. The star is suspended from the ribbon by a rectangular shaped metal loop with the corners rounded.

a. The Bronze Star Medal is awarded to any person who, while serving in any capacity in or with the military of the United States after 6 December 1941, distinguished himself or herself by heroic or meritorious achievement or service, not involving participation in aerial flight, while engaged in an action against an enemy of the United States; while engaged in military operations involving conflict with an opposing foreign force; or while serving with friendly foreign forces engaged in an armed conflict against an opposing armed force in which the United States is not a belligerent party.


b. Awards may be made for acts of heroism, performed under circumstances described above, which are of lesser degree than required for the award of the Silver Star.


c. Awards may be made to recognize single acts of merit or meritorious service. The required achievement or service while of lesser degree than that required for the award of the Legion of Merit must nevertheless have been meritorious and accomplished with distinction.


**The 44 FG is a classic associate unit of the 301st Fighter Wing.

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