9:00am

Tue December 13, 2011
The Commonwealth

Memorial Service for Gander Victims

Several people attended the annual memorial service and wreath-laying ceremony on Monday honoring the 248 members of the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) 2nd Brigade who died in the chartered Arrow Airlines Flight 1285 DC-8 crash in Newfoundland on Dec. 12, 1985.

Those soldiers were returning home following a six-month peace-keeping mission in the Sinai Peninsula. The plane crashed shortly after takeoff from Gander, Newfoundland, on its way to Fort Campbell, killing all on board. The crash is considered the worst military air disaster in history. The official cause of the crash was ice on the wings.

Mark Stevens, the chair of the Christian County Chamber of Commerce Military Affairs Committee which sponsored the event, led the memorial service at Fort Campbell Memorial Park.

Col. Roger Heath led the invocation, and members of the 2nd Brigade honor guard posted the colors. Bill Streets sang the National Anthem.

Guest speaker Col. Daniel Walrath, the commander of the 2nd Brigade, was introduced by T.C. Freeman, civilian aide to the Secretary of the Army.

“At a time in our nation’s history when such a small percentage of the American people serve in the Armed Forces, it is critical for the military to have strong ties to the communities,” Walrath said. “This ceremony today is a testament to the outstanding relationship that the 101st Airborne has with the Hopkinsville community.

“This tragedy did not just affect the military family, but the whole community. We as soldiers vow to never forget our fallen, and it is clear that the Hopkinsville community does not forget. You honor your military friends and neighbors, fellow Americans who worked, lived and played in this community.”

The wreath was laid adjacent to the statue representing the fallen soldiers of that day by Walrath and CSM Alonzo Smith. A firing salute was rendered, and Sgt. Lee Lamb played Taps.

Several people placed roses on the monuments etched with the names of the fallen soldiers.

“It’s just an honor to represent the unit and to be able to be part of a ceremony to pay tribute to our soldiers,” Walrath said after the ceremony.

“It’s significantly important to remember our history and those who gave the ultimate sacrifice in order to provide those freedoms to this country and the great people of this country,” said CSM Robert L. Hockstedler of the 52nd Ordinance EOD. “Whenever we can get an opportunity to recognize them for that sacrifice, we should take every chance.”