"Sharing can be a way of healing. Grief and loss can isolate,
anger even alienate. Shared with others, emotions unite
as we see we aren't alone. We realize others weep with us."
~Susan Wittig Albert

Through our writing, we walk out of the darkness into the light
together, one small step at a time, recording history, educating
America, and we are healing.
~CJ/Todd Dierdorff

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

God Bless the Marines

by David Westfall

Last night, March 29th 2011, at about 7:30 p.m. local time, a CH-53 with 4 Marines on board from MCAS Kaneohe, Hawaii, went down near the base. It was a water crash, but luckily, the water was only about 4 feet deep. Apparently, they have all survived the crash, but at least one is in critical condition. KBay is where we used to do our practice SAR jumps when I was stationed at HSL-37, NAS Barber's Point, Hawaii. It is now the home base for HSL-37 since they closed NAS Barber's Point back in the mid 1990's.

When a friend of mine posted the links for the news sites about the crash, it hit me hard. It has been almost 16 years since I strapped myself into a military helicopter. I don't know any of the crewman involved, but it still made my heart ache. Unless you only did one tour flying, the odds are you know someone who gave their life flying in military aircraft. It may be a risk all flyers take every time they strap in, but that doesn't make it any easier when it happens.

It was about 18 years and one week ago that a helo from my squadron went down in the Straights of Hormuz. I lost three good friends that night. Only a few years before that, our squadron lost another bird. Only one crewman was lost, but the other two will never be the same, either mentally or physically.

I was only in the Navy for 12 years. I have now been out for almost 16 years, much longer than I was in, but these feelings of hurt and sadness still rear their ugly heads every time I hear of an aviator, from any branch of the U.S. military, going down. Sometimes I wish I didn't experience these feelings. But, when I sit back and think about it with my brain instead of my heart, I know it is a good thing. There's a need for people in this country that care about and honor our service members. I know they have family and friends, but I believe more is better.

I recently read in a book, "If you share your pain with someone else, it cuts your own in half".  I am aware that I don't know any of these brave airmen, and they will never know that I am sharing their pain with them, but I honestly believe it can't hurt and may be able to help them. I guess it all depends on whether you believe in a common life energy here on Earth or not. I do.

So, as I sit here and type, I am thinking about, and praying for, these four brave airmen. Those airmen that for years have been putting their lives on the line, every time they strap in, to help keep this country free.

God bless you all.
AW2 (AW) (Civ) David "Bull" Westfall


Corporal Jonathan D. Faircloth, an aerial observer with Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 363, Marine Air Group 24, was pronounced dead by the state medical examiner and taken to Tripler Army Medical Center Tuesday night.
Faircloth, 22, of Mechanicsburg, Pa., joined the squadron in April, 2007, and deployed with them to Iraq in 2008 and Afghanistan in 2010. He became a Marine in August, 2006.

Faircloth is survived by his wife, Alicia, two siblings, James and Danielle, and his parents, Dean and Beverly Faircloth, who described their son as a true gentleman and a happy person who loved the Marine Corps and his job.

Faircloth's personal awards include four Air Medals, two Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals, Iraq and Afghanistan Campaign Medals, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and the National Defense Service Medal.

The three HMH-363 crewmen injured during the same emergency landing were pilot Maj. Clinton J. Collins, copilot Capt. Kevin F. Hayles, and crew chief Cpl. Ronnie E. Brandafino. All three Marines were transported to Queen's Medical Center in Honolulu for treatment of their injuries and were last reported in stable condition.
While Hayles has joined the squadron recently, Collins has deployed with HMH-363 once to Afghanistan and Brandafino, who joined the squadron in 2008 deployed with them to Iraq that year and to Afghanistan in 2010. Collins also deployed with HMH-362, also based at MCAS Kaneohe Bay, to Iraq in 2007.

***Thank you, David. You sure know how to say what most of us would like to. That quote was right on ... sharing our pain with others really does cut our own in half. That has been my dream, here in Memoirs.
Hugs to you, my friend,

“I am only one, but I am one. I can't do everything, but I can do something. The something I ought to do, I can do. And by the grace of God, I will.” ~Everett Hale

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  1. I found out yesterday afternoon that the co-pilot succumbed to his injuries. Semper Fi Marine!

  2. Hi David,
    Like the saying goes, "Some gave All and All gave some".
    Every person in the US Military, be it 2 years of a life time should be considered a hero. They don't have to see combat for them to be doing something for their Country, Our Country.
    They are giving a little of themselves so that others can be free. Any loss is unacceptable, be it in combat action, training accident or someone being hit by a car. These military personnel give of themselves every day. They don't ask for much in return, but we should give them what we can, even if it is here to just listen and know that your words do not fall on deaf ears.
    Welcome home my friend.
    Craig Latham
    Former 101st Airborne Div. (Ambl)
    Phu Bai, Vietnam (now in Ohio)

  3. I am the mother of Cpl. Ronnie Brandafino, the Crew Cheif on the flight that crashed at K-Bay on March 29th, he was three weeks away from completing his 5 year committment to the Marine Corps,and was due to come home for good April 17th! my hero for so many years of his life even before the Marine Corps but most definetly since joining and especially while watching him struggle through the tragedy and the injuries he was left with. I'm eternally grateful to his Marine Corps family who stood by our sides, to the Doctors who saved his life and his leg, though he has a long road ahead of him he is special and strong and motivated to heal and walk. Thank you for your kind words and thoughts, he is currently healing at Walter Reed and will move over to Bethesda when he is ready. He is an amazing young man, an Amazing son and a amazing Marine.His fallen brother is carried in his heart as they were like brothers. every picture of them they are laughing. Jon's family is forever in my thoughts and prayers.~ Darlene Brandafino-Claus Very Proud Marine Mom x2


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