Remembering the Fallen

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Story by Petty Officer 1st Class Thomas McKenzie

On Tuesday, October, 29, 2013, Coast Guard Air Station Sacramento held a remembrance ceremony to honor the flight crews of Coast Guard C-130 1705, and Vengeance 38, a Marine Corps AH-IW Cobra attack helicopter.  Both crews perished in a mid-air collision off the coast of San Diego on the night of October 29, 2009.

 

“The next day was so awful, just so surreal,” said Lt. Israel Young.

“All I could think about was seeing Che (a fellow pilot) walk out to the plane I’d just landed from a training flight and he was saying, ‘Hope you have a short flight, man!’  He just laughed and started to put his gear on the plane.  It was the last time I would see him,” said Young.  “I think of all of them often.”

Capt. Douglas Nash, commanding officer of Coast Guard Air Station Sacramento, addressed his crew with a touching tribute to the fallen, focusing on the lessons learned since the accident:

“Because of our shipmates who gave their lives in the line of duty, we have become a safer and more effective organization.  We now have night vision capabilities in our aircraft, improved coordination with our multi-agency partners, improved de-confliction of shared airspace, and an increased awareness of the responsibility to see and avoid other traffic.  We have also learned the important lesson that planning for the unthinkable, by the simple act of having a will, updating our beneficiary paperwork, or having powers of attorney in place, are sometimes the best things we can do for our families.”  The names of each of the fallen crew members were then read aloud followed by a moment of silence in their honor.

Young said that his heart was eased by participating in the anniversary memorial at the station this year.

“The day started out overcast and gloomy,” said Young.  “As Capt. Nash delivered his remarks, the sun began to peek through.  And when the names of my seven friends were read and the bell rang in the silence, the sun finally revealed itself completely.”  The bronze memorial of the 1705 radiated gold from the light and Young was reminded of where the lost now reside.

The 1705 memorial at Coast Guard Air Station Sacramento

The 1705 memorial at Coast Guard Air Station Sacramento

The ceremony ended with Nash reminding his crew “to hold the memory of these heroes forever in our hearts.”

Young said it was hard to come back to Sacramento after three years in Kodiak, knowing he would be “flying the same missions in the same place where we lost our friends.”

“It’s the mission, though,” said Young.  “Search and Rescue is our sacrament.  It is what we do, and there isn’t much that can stop any of us from answering that call to put the ready C-130 on the line.  I will never forget them, but all is well.  We will continue to honor them and their families by being there when called.”

Air Station Sacramento is the only Coast Guard fixed-wing aircraft unit on the West Coast and is responsible for a maritime area extending north to the Canadian border, south to Panama and half-way to the Hawaiian Islands. In FY13 Sacramento aircrews flew 3,600 hours in support of search-and-rescue, logistics and counter-narcotics patrols, which included 1,300 hours in the Southern California area alone.

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