Memorial Day list - 2023

Started by coyote101, May 26, 2023, 09:16:14 AM

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I am a little early with this this year, but we're headed to the country for the weekend, and the internet is a little sketchy:

I have posted this every Memorial Day since 2008, so here again is my annual tribute to my friends:

For several years I carried a small piece of paper in my wallet.  It is just a slip from a note pad, about 4 X 5 inches. It was folded twice and stuck in the back of the wallet with some other stuff. When I changed wallets last year, it was left in the old one and forgotten for a while. I dug it out a couple of days ago. This is what is on it:

Mark Gardner
Mike Steele
Jim Crump
Doug Dowd
Cheryl Sirunian
George Harrelson
Doc Halliday
Mark Bernstien
Pierre Desroches
"Augie" Wienaug
Steve Penrod
Benny Hardin

Twelve names, that's it. Twelve people who were friends and acquaintances of mine. All of them were U.S. Army aviators and all of them died in aircraft accidents. I was closer to some of them than others, but I knew them all.

Memorial Day seems like a good time to pay them a small tribute. So here goes.

Mark Gardner and Doug Dowd were killed in separate AH-1 Cobra crashes at Ft. Rucker, Alabama during aircraft qualification training. Their instructor pilots died also. I had been stationed with both of these guys in Korea in 1978-79. In fact Major Dowd was the unit commander when I left Korea.

Cheryl Sirunian was killed in February 1980 when the UH-1 Huey she was flying hit high power lines in bad weather. She and her crew were returning to Ft. Campbell, Kentucky following a MEDEVAC mission. Cheryl was the first female Army helicopter pilot to die in an aircraft accident. The rest of the crew died too.

George Harrelson was an instructor pilot at Ft. Rucker. He died in a mid-air collision while conducting night vision goggle training. His student and the crew of the other aircraft were also killed. George and I went to the Instructor Pilots' course together in 1981.

Michael "Doc" Halliday and Mark Bernstien were also instructors at Ft. Rucker. They each died during OH-58 tactical training flights with flight school students. Doc and I had been stationed together in Germany, and we were in the same unit at Ft. Rucker when he was killed.

Pierre Desroches was an MH-47 pilot with the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment at Ft. Campbell. He was killed, along with the rest of the crew, during a night training flight over Kentucky in 1996. Pierre and I went through S.E.R.E. training together at Ft. Bragg.

Steve Penrod and "Augie" Wienaug were killed during an NVG flight when their OH-58 fell from a formation. Four aircraft took off for Ft. Campbell, and only three arrived. The wreckage was located a day and a half later in a remote part of LBL. Some of us may have walked over that very spot during the LBL hunt this spring. 

Benny Hardin was a flight school classmate of mine. He was killed in Gander, Newfoundland just before Christmas in 1985 along with 258 other members of the 101st Airborne Division. They were returning from a U.N. peacekeeping mission in the middle east when the chartered commercial airliner they were on crashed.

Jim Crump and Mike Steele were killed in an AH-1 Cobra crash in Korea in November 1979. Mike was also a flight school classmate of mine and a good friend. We had been roommates at flight school and were stationed together in Korea. I had just returned to the U.S. about a month before Mike died. We shared the same birthday, a year apart and one of my sons is named after Mike. He was 21 years old when he was killed.

Young American men and women are making the ultimate sacrifice every day.  I live close to Ft. Campbell, and the 101st is currently deployed. It seems that every day or two another 101st soldier is killed or seriously wounded protecting us. I put this up just as a reminder to all of us that Memorial Day isn't really about furniture sales and picnics and swimming pools opening. It's a day to remember and pay tribute to those men and women, and their families, who have sacrificed so much so the rest of us can continue to live the blessed lives that we live.

My friend Mike Steele in Korea 1979

Mike's Mom, sister and some of his friends after his funeral in Bremerton WA, November 1979

NRA Life Member

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