Cley helicopter tragedy: In memoriam

56 RQS Commander Lt Col Jared Herbert addresses the congregation during a memorial service for USAF crew members Captain Sean Ruane, TSGT Dale Mathews, SSGT Afton Ponce, and Captain Christopher Stover, at US Airforce Base Lakenheath in Norfolk. Picture: Chris Radburn / PA 56 RQS Commander Lt Col Jared Herbert addresses the congregation during a memorial service for USAF crew members Captain Sean Ruane, TSGT Dale Mathews, SSGT Afton Ponce, and Captain Christopher Stover, at US Airforce Base Lakenheath in Norfolk. Picture: Chris Radburn / PA

Wednesday, July 9, 2014
12:22 PM

On 7 January 2014, four Airmen from the 56th Rescue Squadron took flight on a training exercise in an HH-60G Pave Hawk. As the moon lit the English countryside, tragedy claimed their lives. These four Airmen were known to those they loved as brother, son, father, husband, sister, daughter, mother, wife, and friend.

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The Air Force has many missions. Its fighters provide close air support to troops advancing on the ground. Its bombers drop destructive payloads on enemy assets. But the unique mission of the 56th Rescue Squadron is to search and rescue—to seek out and save the lost, the wounded, and the fallen, day or night, in inclement weather, and in the face of hostile forces. These four Airmen took flight on 7 January 2014 to be ready, at a moment’s notice and under any circumstance, to find and recover those in need of refuge.

Our Airman’s Creed calls on those in uniform to “never leave and Airman behind.” Each day, these four Airmen practiced and applied the craft of rescue. Together they are credited with saving hundreds of lives. Those they loved should stand tall knowing that these four embodied all that it means to be an Airman.

Although their lives ended in an unexpected instant, their sacrifice did not spark in that moment—it crescendoed over lifetimes of dedication to serving their country and those they loved. Their legacies will be found in the countless hours supporting the mission of the Air Force, in the late nights helping a son or daughter with homework, and in the laughter shared with friends.

Their dedication shall forever be in our memories through the Rescue Motto, “These things we do… that others may live.

THIS STATEMENT COMES FROM THE UNITED STATES AIR FORCE

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