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Dianne Salerni : Writer of Teen and Middle Grade Fiction | I Remember …

I Remember …

In honor of Memorial Day, I would like to re-visit a guest post written by my brother-in-law Larry O’Donnell last year.  He sent it to me on the afternoon of Memorial Day. It went up late, and I don’t think many people saw it.

This post is in memory of the crew and passengers of a UH-60 Blackhawk, nicknamed “Goat”.

Memorial Day by Larry O’Donnell

In November 2003, I was assigned to a Homeland Security detail in Iraq.  My agents and I had many missions there, too numerous to cite.  One assignment took me and another agent to Mosul, where we attempted to assist General Petraeus and his command, the 101stAirborne Division.  This work required us to fly by helicopter to three different border crossings with three different countries, Turkey, Syria, and Iran.  We flew in “Goat” three or four times out of about a dozen flights in late October into November.
The troopers of the 101stare a special breed of Amercan soldiers and their motivation and professionalism are topnotch.  This statement is not made lightly by a Marine.  These men and women show the same level of mission focus as their forebears, the Battling Bastards of Bastogne.  If you saw the Spielberg series “Band of Brothers” you got a flavor of what I mean.
On November 7, 2003, my agent and I boarded “Goat” for my return to Baghdad.  As we waited for the flight of two Blackhawks to load, we were called aside by the crew chief.  He told us that the Judge Advocate General of the Army and his staff required our seats on the UH-60 and we would get a special flight later, direct to Baghdad.  I recall being disappointed by the delay but a special flight just to get us back was a unique compliment.  We took our gear back to the 101stHeadquarters. 
A couple of hours later we went up to the operations center to see the status of our flight.  It was apparent that something was going on.  There was no banter or chatter among the soldiers.  We found out a minute later that “Goat” had been shot down outside of Tikrit.  There were no survivors.  My associate and I were the last people to personally interact with the crew. 
So I take some time on Memorial Day and Veterans Day to remember them.  It could have been a completely different outcome for me.
The fallen 101stsoldiers were:  CAPT Benedict Smith, CW3 Kyron Kennedy, SSGT Paul Neff, SSGT Scott Rose.  The JAG personnel were CWO5 Sharon Swartworth and SGTMAJ Cornell Gilmore.  God bless them and their families.

9 Responses to I Remember …

  1. Sarah says:

    It was really hard to read this because my sister flew Blackhawks as part of the Medevac for the 101st, and she was stationed in Mosul when she was in Iraq. I remember that gnawing worry for her, and hearing stories like this one remind me how lucky we are to have her back home. Still, it’s so important to remember those who didn’t make it back. Thanks for the reminder, Larry, and thanks for re-posting it, Dianne.

  2. Linda G. says:

    I remember this from last year. It bears a repeat. 🙂

    Thanks again to all who have served.

  3. wow. Thanks for re-posting this Dianne. And thanks Larry. ‘god bless them and their families’ indeed.

  4. Wow, Dianne. I’m glad you reposted this. It gave me chills, both for the people who were lost and for Larry’s near miss.

  5. mshatch says:

    Great re-post and what a chilling near-miss. Glad you were here to write this but sad for those who are not.

  6. Kate Scott says:

    Thanks for this great Memorial Day tribute.

  7. Jess says:

    Wonderful post for Memorial Day. Gave me chills.

  8. That must be hard to deal with, realizing you could have been the on the flight, but fate gave you a second chance.

  9. LTM says:

    oh, what a tough story. And what a way to make it real and bring it home for everybody. So glad your BIL wasn’t on that first flight. And I’ve said it before, but he needs to write a book! 😀 <3