Monday, May 30, 2011
A Memorial Day Message
I just wanted to take some time and say that I am proud of my friend Gunnery Sargent Angel Montanez who is currently on deployment on a tour of the Western Pacific, or as we Marines and Sailors so commonly refer to as WestPac. He is just one of the many Marines I served with who to this day still wake up and put on the uniform. Today is memorial day. The day we thank those who are serving, those who have served and remember those who gave their lives for this country. Please remember to show your appreciation for them all on this Memorial Day.
Even though Montanez is out on deployment, I know he and fellow Marines who served with HMM-164 back in 1997 take a little time each year on this date to remember our fallen heroes. Fourteen years ago we lost four of our own. Lance Corporal Guajardo, Corporal Tsoris, Captain Barnes and Major Dogs lost their lives in a training accident off the coast of California as our squadron was preparing to deploy for WestPac '97 aboard the USS Peleliu. Something went terribly wrong and their helicopter went into the water as they were practicing landing maneuvers using night vision goggles. Rescue teams called off the search after 24 hours. Memorial services were held back in Marine Corps Air Station El Toro. It was a very somber time. We had services yet there were no caskets. We got into our dress uniforms and gathered at the Air Station's church to grieve together knowing that our friends were still out at see. Their bodies were not recovered from the bottom of the ocean for another two weeks by special deep sea divers.
The training mission, the deployment and all of our lives might have moved on but we will never forget them. We all have our own way to keep their memories alive. Every time I hear a helicopter fly over I look up and remember the good old times. I look at this picture with Montanez in his flight suit standing next to a PHROG (CH-46E) and it reminds me of those guys. This is what they were wearing the day they died. Its hard to see someone in a flight suit and not get a flashback. Its also hard to look at anything with the number 11 and not remember them. They were flying in aircraft 11 that day.
I'm pretty sure Guajardo, Tsoris, Barnes and Doggs are watching from above so I just want to give them one big OOOOH-RAH!
To all of you who are still serving I wish you well. I am so proud of you guys. Please stay safe. You have made it this far so don't quit now. Just a few more years so you can retire and get fat like the rest of us.