Lt. Col. Jeanette McMahon, with sons Mike Jr., top back, Thomas and Ricky, front, talked to reporters yesterday about the children's father, Lt. Col. Mike McMahon, who was killed Saturday in Afghanistan.

Schofield community
mourns loss of 3 men

A prayer service offers
families a chance to
remember loved ones

Lt. Col. Jeanette McMahon received news yesterday that she was selected to be promoted to colonel, something she says she would have loved to share with her "best friend."

But yesterday, along with several hundred friends at Schofield Barracks, McMahon, 43, was mourning the death of her husband and fellow helicopter pilot, Lt. Col. Michael McMahon, 41.

Father is 'an angel'
to son left behind

To 5-year-old Ricky McMahon, his father -- Lt. Col. Mike McMahon -- is an angel.

Ricky told reporters yesterday: "My daddy was on the airplane. It didn't fly in the right place. It crashed. Daddy is in heaven. Now he is an angel ... and all of us miss Daddy a lot."

Lt. Col. Mike McMahon, commander since June 2003 of the 3rd Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment, at Wheeler Army Air Field, was one of six people who died Saturday when their plane crashed in Afghanistan.

Gregg K. Kakesako, Star-Bulletin

"It would have been nice to share this," Jeanette McMahon told reporters, "the promotion news with him. That has been the hardest thing to take, getting the great news -- being selected for promotion -- but then not being able to share that with him. But I know he's up there and he's happy for me."

At noon yesterday a prayer service was held for McMahon, formerly of West Hartford, Conn.; Chief Warrant Officer Travis W. Grogan, 31, of Moore, Okla.; and Spc. Harley D. Miller, 21, of Spokane, Wash., at Schofield Barracks' main chapel. The three, members of the 25th Division's aviation community, died Saturday in a plane crash in Afghanistan.

Tracy Grogan said her husband left the Navy after eight years as a search and rescue swimmer so he could fly helicopters.

Schofield Barracks was his first assignment after graduating from flight school and training in Alabama, she said.

"He loved his job," Grogan said. "He loved to fly."

Travis Grogan was supposed to have left Schofield Barracks this summer after being assigned there for nearly four years, but those orders were rescinded when his unit, 3rd Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment, was sent to Afghanistan earlier this year.

Tracy Grogan said she has not been given details of the accident, but Maj. Gen. Eric Olson, commander of the 25th Infantry Division, has said the cargo plane "got into a valley and tried to gain altitude quickly. The pilot apparently recognized that he was not going to be able to gain altitude quickly enough and tried to make a very dramatic turn, didn't make it and crashed into a very narrow valley."

The bodies of the three Schofield Barracks soldiers and three civilian crew members were found amid the debris of the plane in the Hindu Kush mountains, southeast of Bamiyan. To date, 12 Schofield Barracks soldiers have died in Afghanistan. A total of 47 service members and civilians with Hawaii ties have died in Iraq, Kuwait and Afghanistan since March 2003.

Tracy Grogan plans to take her son and daughter to Maine on the Christmas vacation she had planned before Saturday's accident. Funeral services for her husband will be held in Oklahoma.

Funeral services for McMahon will be held at West Point next week.

Memorial services will be held tomorrow afternoon at Baghram Air Field for the three soldiers.

A 19-year Army veteran, McMahon is believed to be one of the highest-ranking Army officers to be killed in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Jeanette McMahon met her husband 17 1/2 years ago in church at Fort Campbell. They were engaged four months later on Valentine's Day and married six months after that at West Point, from where they both graduated. Mike McMahon was a member of the class of 1985; his wife got her commission and degree in 1983.

He was a OH-58 Kiowa Warrior scout helicopter pilot, while she flew the larger CH-47 Chinook transport choppers.

"My favorite picture is the two of us sitting in a Kiowa Warrior," she said.

"We shared everything: We shared careers; we shared family. He was very supportive and allowed me to reach my dreams, too," she said.

During his time in Afghanistan, Mike McMahon was able to get Afghans to turn in their weapons by "juggling."

"He sent this great note back to his family," Jeanette McMahon said, "that he found that the Afghanis were not familiar with people juggling. So, he would go to a village and grab three eggs or balls or rocks and start juggling. He would show the kids and they would bring their parents, and then they would turn in their weapons. It was juggling for guns."

Jeanette McMahon said her husband loved to take his son, Thomas, 11, surfing at Barbers Point and taught his youngest son, Ricky, 5, to swim when he was 2 years old. He would also spend time camping, hiking, kayaking and doing other Boy Scout activities with eldest son Michael Jr., 14.

Jeanette McMahon said she is now at a crossroads in her life: With 21 1/2 years of service, she is eligible to retire, but she has the opportunity to remain in uniform, being selected so early for the rank of colonel.

And she will continue to wear her husband's dog tag.

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