Staff Sergeant Zerbe was born in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania and graduated from Red Lion Area High School in York, Pennsylvania, where he lettered in football and wrestling. Following graduation, Zerbe enlisted in the Air Force, graduating basic training, and immediately entered the pararescue training pipeline.
Upon his completion of pararescue training, Zerbe was assigned to the 38th Rescue Squadron, Moody Air Force Base, Georgia. Shortly after his arrival at the squadron, Zerbe completed the first of two deployments in support of the Global War on Terror. Additionally, he served as an astronaut recovery team member in support of NASA’s transoceanic abort landing sites.
In June 2006, Zerbe was reassigned to the 24th Special Tactics Squadron. At the time of his death, Zerbe was on his seventh deployment in support of Operations ENDURING FREEDOM and IRAQI FREEDOM.
Zerbe’s military awards included the Bronze Star Medal Valor and two Oak Leaf Clusters, the Purple Heart, the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, the Air Medal with seven Oak Leaf Clusters, the Aerial Achievement Medal with one Oak Leaf Cluster, the Joint Service Commendation Medal, the Air Force Achievement Medal, and the Air Force Combat Action Medal.