dianne salerni author
dianne salerni author

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.