Not Ours...Please, Not Ours

Through our intelligence channels, we received news of the US Army Black Hawk helicopter crash minutes after it happened, on January 20, 2007. Not much was known about the incident except it was not ours. All Punisher (our call sign) aircraft were safely accounted for and we would be going home soon, if only we could make it out of here without any casualties. Our missions continued at the regular fly, eat, sleep pace maintained the whole time we've been here. Many of us started to review the basics of our flight tactics, a result of the news. Our experienced pilots stood up and gave speeches about "making it to the end" and "don't let complacency come into our operations". Because the incident happened outside of the Marine Corps area of responsibility, our internet access was not turned off. This gave all of us the chance to communicate home, "We are OK. It was not a 224th aircraft."

I even wrote home. I have not done it before, but this time I felt that we were so close to going home, it would be better to let my family know we were not involved. Four or five days had passed since the accident was announced and we were all shocked to get the call from our commander. Two of our own were on the flight. It was a sinking feeling for everybody to learn one of the 2-224th's former commanders, working for the Joint Force Headquarters - Virginia, Col Paul M. Kelly was on the flight. Also on the flight, Staff Sgt Darryl D. Booker, a member of the 2-224th's Flight Operations office, who originally stayed stateside to help run Flight Operations in Sandston, VA while the unit was gone on the deployment.

Several pilots of greater experience and tenure with the unit who knew Col. Kelly and Staff Sgt Booker were to say the least, unnerved. It had been us; we were involved in the crash on January 20, 2007. Some instantly broke out with tears. It was the quiet cry by grown men. No words, no drastic reactions, no sobbing. Just the slow trickle of tears down cheeks, one after another, eventually bringing questions. "How...?"

Within hours of the commander's call, memorial services were planned at Al Asad. The next day all but the necessary flight crews and operations staff remained in TQ, while the rest of the company went to Al Asad for the memorial service, where most of the 2-224th assembled to remember and celebrate the lives of fallen comrades.

By Bert Stover |  February 5, 2007; 6:25 AM ET  | Category:  Al Taqaddum, Iraq
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Stay vigilant, all your families are waiting proudly for you to come home. Those of us who sit behind the desk and work in the shops supporting you are proud of your diligent efforts for your country.
God Bless You.

Posted by: Carolyn | February 5, 2007 08:41 AM

Keeping you all in our prayers....stay focused!! God is faithful!! Praying for your families at home as well!!

Posted by: Mechanic's Mom | February 5, 2007 09:44 AM

You, I and all of those who have fought before us know that there is no greater gift than that of freedom. Those close to you perished in an effort to share that with people who have no knowledge of freedom. This is probably the only chance that Iraq will ever have to live in a free democracy of some kind. Without you and those who have given all, they would not have this opportunity. God Bless the USA and her military forces whom without, all would suffer under the threat of anarchist and terrorists.

Posted by: James K. (USAF Retired) | February 5, 2007 10:49 AM

So dude, when you coming home?

Posted by: DeAnn | February 5, 2007 06:07 PM

God bless you and all troops over there! Thank you for your sacrifices and for sharing your experiences with us. Come home safely.

Posted by: Joanne | February 6, 2007 09:56 AM

Thank you.

Posted by: RAL | February 6, 2007 10:43 AM

Bert, I'm so sorry you lost two of your own men. There are no words that will make it better or easier. Just know that all of us here at home deeply appreciate the work you do, and the sacrifice all of you make for us. Take care of yourself and each other, and come home to us soon.

Posted by: Lynn | February 6, 2007 12:01 PM

Your version of a god construct has no bearing on the obscenity of war; it is a manmade horror.
What you think of your god's "faith" is even further from having any bearing on what these American troops go through day after day after day.

Your god's "faith" doesn't save a single one of the author's friends and fellow pilots.
I suggest you get your head out of your vision of a god and try to deal with the reality of what these troops are going through, what our nation is going through, and how you can help.

Posted by: grrrrrrrr | February 7, 2007 01:21 AM

I have had enough of the glorious (sic) war in Iraq-nam. And to be perfectly frank and forthright, I am getting suspicious and weary of supporting the damn troops. The time has come to question the role of the U.$. military... and what they are doing in the name of the American people.

When I travel abroad, I wear Canadian T-shirts and pretend to be Canadian... because it's perilous and embarrassing to an American on foreign streets. Never have I observed so much animosity and resentment directed at Americans. Beware you Americans who catch a jet for Europe or elsewhere. I talk here of personal experience.

George W. Bush is a dry drunk $ociopath; we now reap what we sow.

Posted by: Guy Fox | February 7, 2007 05:12 AM

Guy Fox,

If you are embarrassed of the US enough to wear a canadian T-shirt to hide your true identity, you might consider relocation to an area where canadian T-shirts are sold in great abundance. Until then get used to the fact that you disagree with the current administration and be relieved by the fact that the Europeans that heckle you so much are not at all perfect themselves. In fact most european countries have histories filled with disgusting episodes far more disturbing than our current problems. Grow up little buddy and learn that it will be ok.

Posted by: Bill | February 7, 2007 09:50 AM

Hey Guy Fox,

Keep encouraging the terrorists with your talk against America. I think people like you are traitors. All Americans should support our troops while they are in harms way. If you feel as you do, please just leave this terrible old country since you are so embarrassed to be here. I have traveled in Europe and no one has every treated me badly so I think you are just blowing smoke out of your ---!!

A BIG supporter of our deployed troops!!!

Posted by: | February 7, 2007 11:29 AM

Guy Fox,
I pondered awhile before I decided to comment. You have the right to your opinion and you owe that right to express that opinion to individuals like Bert, who through history, rose to the call of duty.
Bert flew missions six hours per night risking his life. He gave up his personal career ambitions, left his family and friends for more than a year - all for you and his country. I am very proud of him and grateful. If you have issues with American politics, take it up at the polls, not with our deployed troops.

Bert: I'm so glad you are on your way home. Don't forget those left behind.

Posted by: M | February 7, 2007 01:07 PM

Hello Guy Fox,
Where to begin? I know, here is my response:

Who cares what you think. We sure don't.

Place a hose over your tailpipe, place the other end in your car window, start the car, sit inside until sleepy, go to sleep, and shut the F up.

From a concerned soldier and pilot

Posted by: CW2 Hill | February 7, 2007 01:46 PM

We have touchdown, 2-224th. Thank God and
Welcome Home to the Great USA!!!

Posted by: | February 7, 2007 03:23 PM

WELCOME HOME 2-224th! We are so very happy to have you back!

Posted by: Cubbie | February 7, 2007 05:18 PM

Welcome home and thank you so much for everything you and all of our soldiers have done!

And to Guy Fox.....I find you to be one of the biggest scum I have ever encountered. If you find it "embarrassing" to be an American and would rather wear the colors of another country, I think we could take up a fund from some on the blog here to send you on a one way trip to Congo to live out your day(s).

Posted by: RobInVaBeach | February 7, 2007 08:06 PM

I live in the "Peoples Republic of Massachusetts" and I deal with idiots like Guy every day. Guess what Guy...Freedom comes at a price! The price is the lives of American service people who protect this country and fight for your right to be a dope. You and your whinny little liberal friends wouldn't know what a sacrifice was if it bit you in the butt! Stop whining and learn to be a little grateful to the people who protect your freedom of speech!
Bert is a hero. God Bless Bert and God Bless America!!!

Posted by: Maria | February 8, 2007 11:54 AM

I pray for you guys, I pray from Spain, a country whose President has preferred the friendship of Chavez, Castro and the terrorists' instead of the one of the free nations...

That's why I disagree with Guy Fox, but I want to focus my thoughts on you, Bert, and the brave military men of your unit.

God bless y'all :)

Posted by: Mikiroony | February 8, 2007 02:02 PM


Please come home safe. No one sitting here in a warm house could possibly know what you are going through. Keep safe.

Posted by: Linda | February 8, 2007 06:36 PM

God Bless you, Bert, and all of the soldiers who are protecting our lives and our freedom. Bottom line, that's what it comes down to. May God be with all of the families who have lost loved ones in this horrible war. May they know that He has His arms wrapped around each one and they are safe, walking His Golden Streets of peace, love and tranquility.

For those who don't believe in God, the creator of all things, look around because He may not give you much time, or God may give you until the end of time so you may burn in hell. I pray for our military, the families and, I pray for the lost souls who do not believe in God.

Thank you Bert for your postings. And thank God for the guidance He provides.

Posted by: Tricia P | February 9, 2007 12:10 PM

Guy Fox,

The military serves at the bidding of the president. Question HIM, not the people who choose to serve so you don't have to. I'm a proud liberal, I question this country's policies, and I fully admit that I'll be high-tailing it out of here just as soon as I can afford to (I wasn't born here, and I don't plan to stay), but none of this gives me (or YOU) the right to criticize people like Bert for putting their lives on the line in service to their country.

I hope you're safe at home with your family now, Bert, or on your way to it.

Posted by: lynne | February 9, 2007 03:02 PM

Tricia P,

Ever think that god will choose to watch you burn in hell for your complete intolerance of others. Chill out and be secure in your beliefs but don't get so wound up about the beliefs of others. Intolerance can lead to stress and stress can lead to ulcers Chill out or buy a boat load of tums. Also, intolerance is the driving force behind militant Islam. But I know you aren't a militant muslim as you are much better than that. Nor are you so hateful. Right?

Have a grand day!

Posted by: Bill | February 10, 2007 09:20 AM

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