56th RQS Memorial Service: That others may live
US Air Force, January 17, 2014 - RAF LAKENHEATH, England by 48th Fighter Wing Public Affairs - More than 2,000 people paid tribute to four fallen airmen of the 56th Rescue Squadron at a memorial service in Hangar 7, Jan. 17.
Capt. Sean Ruane, Capt. Christopher Stover, Tech. Sgt. Dale Mathews and Staff Sgt. Afton Ponce were killed during an HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter crash while performing a low-level training mission on the Norfolk coast, Jan. 7, 2014.
Family, friends, and thousands of military members, along with first responders from Cley-Next-the-Sea and Salthouse, honored and remembered the airmen in an emotional service.
After the arrival of the families and the official party, the service started with a moving invocation followed by the reading of the fallen airmen's biographies.
Col. Kyle Robinson, 48th Fighter Wing commander, and Lt. Col. Jared Herbert, 56th RQS commander, then gave their remarks. Robinson addressed the crowd with a heartfelt speech that tied into the rescue motto, "That Others May Live."
"We seek to find meaning in their sacrifice," he said. "These airmen go anywhere, anytime, under fire. They never sought out the spotlight. They are the quiet professionals."
Robinson explained that, on the night of the accident, the crew was performing their mission through training.
"But this time, tragically, while performing that mission, they were killed," he said. "The things that they do are so that others can live." He ended the speech with quotes from the Airman's Creed, specifically citing one of the last lines: "I will never leave an airman behind."
"I will never ever say the Airman's Creed again without thinking of the crew of Jolly 22," Robinson said. "They were wingmen to all of us, warriors to many, they never left anyone behind, they never faltered, and they never failed. In short, they made our world a better place."
Herbert referred to the fallen airmen as, "the one percent." He explained that the one percent has performed more than 40 percent of combat rescue missions in Afghanistan. Herbert shared personal stories about each of his airmen, and then retired the call sign, Jolly 22, which was the call sign of the HH-60 that went down, and which now and forever belongs to the fallen aircrew.
Herbert then presented medals to the families of the fallen airmen, to recognize their distinguished accomplishments and exemplary military service.
The service continued with touching stories from friends and fellow members of the 56th RQS; evoking both tears and laughter from the loved ones and comrades gathered in the hangar.
At the end of the service, "Amazing Grace" was played on the bagpipes, a moment of silence was observed, and taps was played in conjunction with an aerial salute, also known as a missing man formation, made up of F-15s from the 492nd, 493rd and 494th Fighter Squadrons.
The bagpipe continued to play as family and squadron members paid their final respects at displays dedicated to each fallen hero.
"These things we do, that others may live."
We will never forget.
Sikorsky HH-60G Pave Hawk 88-26109 ( US Air Force )