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Saturday, February 17, 2001

Photo courtesy U.S. Army
Schofield Barracks soldiers paid tribute yesterday to Maj.
Robert L. Olson, Chief Warrant Officers George P. Perry
and Greg I. Montgomery, Sgts. Rafael Olvera-Rodriguez
and Thomas E. Barber, and Spc. Bob D. MacDonald.

Thousands at
Army services
recall fallen men

Two memorials are held
for the six victims of
Monday's helicopter crash

Memorial fund created

By Mary Adamski

If all had gone as planned, 3,500 Schofield Barracks soldiers would have returned to rest and relaxation yesterday after two weeks of maneuvers in rainy, muddy Koolau mountains.

Instead, the aviation and artillery units donned crisp uniforms and marched to the chapel to remember six men who did not return from the Lightning Thrust Warrior operation.

About 3,000 people attended two memorial services for the victims who died Monday night when their Black Hawk helicopter crashed at the Kahuku Military Training Area. Eleven men who were in a second Black Hawk were injured when that aircraft also crash-landed.

The accident is under investigation.

Wives, children and other family members of the fallen soldiers, surrounded by their comrades, attended each service in the main chapel. Hundreds more watched it on a large-screen television in an adjacent chapel or listened to speakers set up on the surrounding lawn.

The massed force of mourners was solemn and attentive during prayers and brief tributes to their comrades. It was the meaningful military traditions that brought many to tears.

Evoking the traditional daily roll call, several men answered, "Here, Sergeant," as their names were called. Then the call came for six men who did not answer: first by last name; again, with full name; finally, rank and name. Sobs and sniffs could be heard and heads were bowed in the emotional farewell, which ended with the playing of taps.

In another military tribute, each man's helmet was displayed atop an M-16 rifle standing bayonet down, symbolizing that it will not be used again by the soldier who carried it.

In the midday service by the 2nd Battalion, 11th Field Artillery, Maj. Robert L. Olson, battalion operations officer, and Sgt. Rafael Olvera-Rodriguez, the artillery crewman who served as his driver, were remembered as "a team -- they supported each other," said Lt. Col. Wayne L. Detwiler.

"This is a time to celebrate their accomplished dreams, their realized aspirations and their contributions to our lives," said the battalion commander.

In the earlier service by the 2nd Battalion, 25th Aviation Regiment, friends shared anecdotes that lightened the mood.

The service honored pilots Chief Warrant Officer 4 George P. Perry and Chief Warrant Officer 2 Greg I. Montgomery, and helicopter crew members Sgt. Thomas E. Barber and Spc. Bob D. MacDonald.

Some learned from the roll calls that Olvera-Rodriguez and Barber had been posthumously promoted to sergeant.

Aviation battalion commander Lt. Col. Paul Disney said all four were known for "their love of the Army and of aviation. We will never forget their sacrifice."

Disney applauded the troops at the crash site for "acts of courage" in rescuing the injured and removing the bodies.

Representatives from other branches of military service joined Lt. Gen. E.P. Smith, commander of all Army troops in the Pacific, and Maj. Gen. James Dubik, 25th Infantry Division commander, at the tributes. Local dignitaries included U.S. Rep. Patsy Mink.

Each family will plan individual funeral and burial services. Perry, who grew up in Hawaii, is to be buried Monday in Hawaii State Veterans Cemetery after a noon Mass today at St. Stephen's Church.

 | | |

Fund created to aid
families of the dead

A memorial fund has been created for the families of the six Army soldiers killed in twin helicopter crashes Monday.

Checks should be made out to the Soldier's Relief Fund and mailed to Soldier's Relief Fund, c/o First Hawaiian Bank, P.O. Box 861598, Wahiawa, HI 96786.

Donations may also be dropped off at any First Hawaiian branch.

Donors can specify a soldier or family by writing the soldier's name in the memo portion of the check.

E-mail to City Desk

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