For the proud men and women of the United States Air Force, June 9, 2010, will be remembered as a day of indescribable tragedy. Four airmen died when their HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter crashed during a medical evacuation operation in Afghanistan's Helmand province. Shortly after the attack, which also injured three airmen, the Taliban claimed responsibility for shooting down the chopper. By firing on a rescue team focused on caring for the wounded, the enemy has continued its track record of wanton brutality and battlefield cowardice.
After the deadliest day of battle for the Air Force in more than five years, the four fallen airmen returned home on Friday in flag-draped caskets at Delaware's Dover Air Force base. The departed heroes leave behind loving families in four different states.
Staff Sgt. Michael Flores, 31, San Antonio, Texas
1st Lt. Joel Gentz, 25, Grass Lake, Michigan
Staff Sgt. David Smith, 26, Eight Mile, Alabama
Senior Airman Benjamin White, 24, Erwin, Tennessee
The Unknown Soldiers will bring you more about the lives of these patriots in the weeks ahead. In the meantime, please keep their families and wounded comrades in your thoughts. Even though their helicopter fell, these men represent everything the Taliban doesn't: dignity, honor, compassion, and bravery. That's why they have already risen to a higher place than their murderers could ever hope to reach.