Monday, May 25, 2015

Memorial Day 2015

Honoring Black Hawk Tail #517 ~ You Will Never be Forgotten.
Memorial Day has come to have very special meaning for us. Every year we honor the soldiers who died when the Black Hawk helicopter with the tail #517 crashed in Afghanistan carrying solders and Navy Seals that we had been supporting through
Soldiers' Angels.

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

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 that our CAB unit delivered mail and supplies to.    

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 in the 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, he 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 single-handedly raised the funds to build it.  The memorial was dedicated at Fort Campbell on my birthday, January 6, 2012.    

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

As we have done each year since this tragedy occurred, today on Memorial Day, we are remembering and honoring the soldiers and sailors who perished in the  crash of Black Hawk #517.  

In 2011, we dedicated the circular rose and cottage garden in front of our home in Newburyport  to the memory of these soldiers.  We called this particular bed the "rose island" since it was planted predominantly with roses.  On Memorial Day, we 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.

In 2012,  in place of the flags, we  erected a memorial in the form of a figure of a soldier bearing a flag on the rose island.  At night, the statue and flag were lit by a solar powered spot light that shined from dusk until dawn.  The soldier was lit year round -- we went during winter storms to make sure that the light was cleared of snow and the flag was protected. 

Last year (2014) we moved to California and this is our first Memorial Day in our new home.  We are in temporary quarters in a lovely apartment in American Canyon.  But our soldiers are in our heart.  The soldier statue is in storage, awaiting a new home in a new garden in California, but to honor our soldiers, we are attending the Memorial Day Celebration in our new city. 

We are grateful for the safe return of the many soldiers we supported over the past nearly 7 years.   For those who gave their lives to this effort, we have pledged to honor their memory.  We will never forget. 

The   Newburyport garden tribute to the soldiers and sailors who died on September 21, 2010 in the crash of Black Hawk Tail #517. The red rose is Veteran's Honor.
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 posts about this courageous crew which we originally  posted on Memorial Day, 2011.  You can read the previous post HERE. Photos were sent to us by Capt. Nick Craig shortly after the crash.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thank you for leaving a comment for us. We try to reply to each one here on the blog so feel free to ask questions and we will respond. Do be sure to subscribe to the comments so you will receive our reply by email. Otherwise, you can email us for a more personal, detailed reply to a query.

Spam Alert: Spammers, our spam blocker keeps most of you out and the few that slip through with inappropriate links, we immediately delete so you probably shouldn't even waste your time.

Everyone else, do have a great gardening day!