Monday, May 28, 2012

Memorial Day, 2012: Honoring Black Hawk #517

Memorial Day has come to have very special meaning for us. 

As members of Soldiers' Angels since 2006, we have supported many, many soldiers who served in Afghanistan and Iraq with cards, letters, care packages, and holiday gifts.   

In 2010, we adopted an entire unit of 35 soldiers who were members of the 101st Airborne Combat Air Brigade, 101st Airborne Division.  This unit was based at Fort Campbell, Kentucky and had been deployed to Afghanistan where they were stationed at Kandahar Air Base.

In addition to the soldiers of the 101st, we also supported another platoon of 12 soldiers, members of a combined joint special operations task force serving in Tarin Kowt.    

Capt. Nick Craig
Our unit of the 101st CAB brought mail, food, and supplies to  groups of soldiers stationed in the mountainous region  near Kandahar and served as the extraction team for any NATO troops in that region who were either in extreme danger or who had been injured or killed.  It was grim, dangerous work.

Our main contact for both units during the deployment was Capt. Nick Craig, one of the Black Hawk pilots in the CAB unit we were supporting.   Nick relayed messages to us, letting us know what kinds of food, clothing, and toiletries the special forces soldiers needed, and what the soldiers in his own unit needed as well.  

We sent cards and letters every week and more than two dozen care packages every month, including complete meals, toiletries, and snacks for the special forces soldiers.   

We also sent each of our soldiers a Christmas stocking stuffed with goodies from their "Wish List". (That was a major production but we pulled it off!)   And we sent each one of them one of the "US Flag" T-shirts we are wearing (above photograph).

On September 21, 2010, the U.S. suffered one of the most devastating losses of the entire war when one of the unit's Black Hawk helicopters, tail #517, crashed, claiming the lives of 9 soldiers and sailors. 

While we were grateful that Nick was not flying that day, the five soldiers who perished were members of the 101st CAB.   The other four troops who died in the crash were sailors, members of a special forces combined group.  Three were Navy SEALs and the fourth was a Navy cryptologic technician assigned to a Naval Special Warfare unit. 

Their unit emblem, sent by Nick, shortly after the crash.
Nick sent us an email about the crash and a couple of days later, when names were officially released, sent along their names as well as photographs.  He helped in the recovery of the remains of soldiers who he knew and flew with.  We can't imagine how difficult that must have been for him and for the entire unit.   

Despite not having met any of "our" soldiers or knowing them personally, the loss was very personal to us.  We held every one of them very close to our hearts. 

Nick organized a memorial to honor the soldiers who died and singlehandedly raised the funds to build it.  The memorial was dedicated at Fort Campbell this past January.    (Note:  The fund is till shy of its goal;  click HERE if you are able to help in some small way.)  

We couldn't be there for the dedication, but Nick sent us a certificate commemorating the day and acknowledging that a flag was flown in our name by a Black Hawk over Afghanistan.  We were very touched by the honor.  He also sent us their unit emblem which hangs in our kitchen.  

As we did last year, today on Memorial Day, we are remembering and honoring the soldiers and sailors who perished in the  crash of Black Hawk #517.  

Last year, we dedicated the circular rose and cottage garden in front of our home to the memory of these soldiers and placed American flags around  the circle, one for each soldier and sailor lost.   We left the flags flying in place until it was time to close the garden for the winter.

This year,  we  erected a permanent memorial in the form of a figure of a soldier bearing a flag.   At night, the statue and flag are lit by a spot light.   
We are grateful for the safe return of the many soldiers we supported over the past six years.   For those who gave their lives to this effort, we have pledged to honor their memory.  With this garden, we will never forget. 

Here is our garden tribute to the soldiers and sailors who died on September 21, 2010 in the crash of Black Hawk Tail #517.

Roses, iris, and (off to the side out of view) peonies are in bloom.
Close-up of the statuary.


Remembering the Soldiers and Sailors 
from Black Hawk #517

Chief Warrant Officer Matthew G. Wagstaff
Sgt. Marvin R. Calhoun Jr.
Chief Warrant Officer Jonah D. McClellan
Maj. Robert F. Baldwin
Staff Sgt. Joshua D. Powell
Petty Officer 2nd Class Adam O. Smith
Lt. Brendan J. Looney

Senior Chief Petty Officer David B. McLendon
Petty Officer 3rd Class Denis C. Miranda

Author's Note:  Much of the content of this post is taken from our previous post about this courageous crew which we posted on Memorial Day, 2011.  You can read the previous post HERE


  1. Replies
    1. We had a wonderful day, Cher, and hope you did as well. We couldn't have asked for more perfect weather!

  2. Cathy and Steve this is a wonderful post. I wish we could do more for our brave soldiers and veterans. My dad's family all served as did my uncles on my mom's side. We buried my uncle in 2002 in Arlington. It was such a great honor to be there.

    1. I am appalled at some of the stories the soldiers have shared with us about how poorly supplied they are, even with such critical things like food and toilet paper! It was an honor for us to assist them.

  3. I really don't know what to say other than I am proud that I know you.

    1. Alistair, we are deeply touched by your comment. Thank you.

  4. It is absolutely wonderful you do so much to honor our soldiers. Your tribute was nice but a little heat wrenching too. And not just for one day a year do you have them in your thoughts, either. That says quite a bit about your character. I can not imagine Nick having to go to the retrieval site. It takes a strong individual (in so many ways) to be a soldier.

  5. I know several soldiers who have served in Afghanistan and Iraq, and your post has touched my heart. It is easy to say we support our soldiers, but you back up your words with action. To have a flag flow in your name must have been a great honor, and I think it is a well deserved tribute to the care and love you have shown.

    1. Thanks so much for taking the time to comment. Yes, we were really touched about the flag flown in our name.


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