Adrianna Vorderbruggen grew up in Plymouth, Minnesota. After high school, she attended the Air Force Academy and earned her degree in the behavioral sciences. While at the academy, Vorderbruggen was co-captain of their 2002 Division I championship women’s rugby team. She graduated that same year and commissioned as a second lieutenant.
Vorderbruggen completed her training at the Air Force Special Investigations Academy at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Brunswick, Georgia. After Vorderbruggen graduated in 2003, she became a counterintelligence program manager with OSI Detachment 802 based at then-Patrick Air Force Base, Florida. With this unit, she deployed to Iraq. She played a vital role in capturing one of the key men associated with Saddam Hussein’s son, who killed U.S. and Iraqi military personnel.
In 2005, Vorderbruggen transferred to McChord Air Force Base, in Tacoma, Washington, now known as Joint Base Lewis-McChord, as an operations officer. In the same year, Vorderbruggen met Heather Lamb, who was also serving in the Air Force. The two became a couple, but had to hide their relationship under the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.
In 2007, Vorderbruggen became commander of OSI Detachment 225, Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico. Two years later, Vorderbruggen went to study at George Washington University. She earned a master’s degree in forensic science. In 2010, she became a forensic science consultant for the Northeastern region of the United States.
Serving under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” put strain on the couple. They decided to start a family, and Lamb left the Air Force. When they had their son, Vorderbruggen could not tell anyone she worked with about the birth. After 17 years, the military repealed the policy in 2011, and the couple married the following year. Vorderbruggen no longer hid her personal life.
In 2013, Vorderbruggen became an operations officer with the 9th Field Investigations Squadron based in Hurlburt Field, Florida. In 2015, she deployed to Afghanistan, as commander of OSI Expeditionary Detachment 2405 at Bagram Air Base. On Dec. 21, 2015, Vorderbruggen was leading a security foot patrol near Bagram Air Base, when a suicide motorcycle bomber killed her and five other Airmen.
Vorderbruggen served in the military for 13 years and rose to the rank of major. She was 36 years old. Vorderbruggen posthumously received a Bronze Star Medal, Purple Heart and Air Force Combat Action Medal.
Lamb told the New York Times, “It is important to us that she be remembered first as an Air Force officer, loving mother, wife, daughter and sister, above all else,” she said, “not primarily by her sexual orientation.”
We honor her service.
Nominate a Veteran for #VeteranOfTheDay
Do you want to light up the face of a special Veteran? Have you been wondering how to tell your Veteran they are special to you? VA’s #VeteranOfTheDay social media feature is an opportunity to highlight your Veteran and his/her service.
It’s easy to nominate a Veteran. Visit our blog post about nominating to learn how to create the best submission.
Writer: Michael Veronda
Editor: Julia Pack and Christopher Wilson
Fact checker: Latesha Thornhill
Graphic artist: Courtney Carr