Army's Worst Day
The Department of Defense announced today the death of 14 soldiers who were supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.They died Aug. 22 in Multaka, Iraq, of injuries suffered when their helicopter crashed.
Killed were the following soldiers assigned to the 4th Squadron, 6th U.S. Air Cavalry Regiment, Fort Lewis, Wash.:
Capt. Corry P. Tyler, 29, of Georgia.
Chief Warrant Officer Paul J. Flynn, 28, of Whitsett, N.C.
Sgt. Matthew L. Tallman, 30, of Groveland, Calif.
Spc. Rickey L. Bell, 21, of Caruthersville, Mo.
Also killed were the following soldiers assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 35th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, Schofield Barracks, Hawaii:
Capt. Derek A. Dobogai, 26, of Fond du Lac, Wis.
Staff Sgt. Jason L. Paton, 25, of Poway, Calif.
Sgt. Garrett I. McLead, 23, of Rockport, Texas.
Cpl. Jeremy P. Bouffard, 21, of Middlefield, Mass.
Cpl. Phillip J. Brodnick, 25, of New Lenox, Ill.
Cpl. Joshua S. Harmon, 20, of Mentor, Ohio.
Cpl. Nathan C. Hubbard, 21, of Clovis, Calif.
Spc. Michael A. Hook, 25, of Altoona, Penn.
Spc. Jessy G. Pollard, 22, of Springfield, Mo.
Spc. Tyler R. Seideman, 20, of Lincoln, Ark.
* Corry Tyler was a graduate of West Point and the sole remaining male in his family which allowed him to avoid deployment. This was his third tour in Iraq.
* Paul "Josh" Flynn was a father to a 6 year old son and went through flight school with MacGyver.
* Matthew Tallman was a husband and a father. "He was a good father, good husband and good human being," said his mother-in-law.
* Ricky Bell was due to return from Iraq on September 13 for leave.
* Derek Dobogai was from Fon do Lac, Wisconsin and was a "very good student" according to a teacher at his alma mater. According to a statement released by his family, "Derek was one of the kindest people you could ever know. He lived life with honor, served selflessly and lived life to the fullest. Derek has always remained strong in his faith."
* Jason Paton was 25 and from Poway, California. He was due to get married in November and was on his third tour of duty to the Middle East.
* Garrett McLead "felt like his mission was clear that when it was his time, it would be his time," according to his uncle.
* Jeremy Bouffard was the only son in his family and leaves behind a wife and young son.
* Phillip Brodnick was the son of a police officer in Illinois.
* Josh Harmon was a combat medic and the son of an Ohio fire chief. He was a newlywed.
* Nathan Hubbard was one of three brothers serving in the military. His brother, a Marine, had been killed in Iraq in 2004. A third brother will be returning from Iraq to be with his family.
* Michael Hook was due to get married with a baby on the way. It was his first deployment.
* Jessy Pollard "was fighting for our American freedoms that we enjoy," said his stepfather. It was something he prayed about before joining the military.
* Tyler Seideman was a high school football player and acted in school plays, once playing the role of Daddy Warbucks in the play "Annie".
The oldest was 30. The youngest, 20. A mechanical failure at the end of a nighttime mission involving two Blackhawks. They came from locations in between and including California and Pennsylvania.
I heard the first bits of information about the crash Tuesday night. Word spreads quickly, even with communication blackouts. However, the bits I was hearing made it sound like there had merely been a precautionary landing and no casualties involved. I said prayers for the people on board and the families and drifted off to sleep.
When I woke up Wednesday morning, I was met with headlines that blared "14 Dead in Helicopter Crash". I was shocked, to say the least. Then reports started to come in that it had been OUR bird, our guys. I started monitoring several websites for information about the crash, about the units. And all the time I prayed. I'm not sure what I was praying FOR. I was just praying.
Emails began to pour in. It had hit national news. Like I said when Chuck's bird went down in 2005, there are small blessings to be found in times like these. I've heard from people I've not heard from in a long time. They heard the words "Hawaii" and "soldiers" and "helicopter" and "killed" on the news and worried instantly. It was good to hear from them, regardless of circumstances.
And then there were emails from our FRG. From the command. From Rear Detachment. From the higher ups in the Brigade. No, it was NOT our bird. No, it was NOT our Brigade.
They were our soldiers on board. As passengers. All 10 of them. The bird was from Fort Lewis but the passengers were ours. All from the same company. All young. All with families and friends left behind to grieve and try to pick up the pieces and try to put one foot in front of the other. Friends in Iraq who still have months to go before they can come home and be with those who love them.
Someone that I was talking with today said something to the effect that, had the extension not happened, they would have been home already. And this is true.
Then it would have been 10 other soldiers. Ten other sons/husbands/fathers/uncles/friends. Ten other families grieving. How do you wish that on someone else?
And not only are the families and friends of these soldiers mourning, there are those behind the scenes that feel these losses deeply as well. Commanders, superiors, Casualty Assistance Officers, first responders who did their best to save those who could be saved yet were unable to do so. They are all dealing with their own pain in their own ways. Do not forget them.
Do not forget any of them.