UK community dedicates memorial to fallen US Airmen
By Staff Sgt. Stephanie Longoria, 48th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
/ Published January 07, 2017
Cley-Next-the Sea, England -- Three years ago, the U.S. Air Force lost four Airmen from the 56th Rescue Squadron who made the ultimate sacrifice, Jan. 7, 2014.
When an HH-60G Pave Hawk, crashed on the Norfolk coast during low-level training, it claimed the lives of two pilots, Capt. Sean Ruane and Capt. Christopher Stover, and two special missions aviators, Tech. Sgt. Dale Mathews and Staff Sgt. Afton Ponce.
Today, the British communities of Cley-Next-the-Sea and Salthouse, demonstrated their unwavering support of the U.S. Air Force community in England, by unveiling and dedicating a memorial stone to honor the fallen aircrew of Jolly 22.
The dedication began when a two-ship of 56th RQS HH-60Gs performed a missing man flyover. As the helicopters disappeared into the horizon, the memorial stone was revealed, Nigel Pickover, Archant Editor Emeritus and organizer of the memorial dedication, offered a few words to those who gathered near the site of the crash.
"We are gathered here today to honor and remember four wonderful colleagues and friends whose lives were lost three years ago," Pickover said. “Three years gone, four lives lost, but the bright light of their memory shines through."
Following the tragic event, the community never forgot the 56th RQS or the greater 48th Fighter Wing family. The 48th FW received unending support from the local community and helped keep memories of the crew of Jolly 22 alive.
“I am deeply touched and so are all the members in the squadron, by the love and support that you are showing us here today,” said Lt. Col. Bernard Smith, 56th RQS commander. “It was shown three years ago at the site and has left a mark in everyone that was there.”
Jolly 22 will never be forgotten.
“This is personally one of the hardest times of the year for me,” Smith said. "Four of my brothers and sister was taken from us far too soon. The pain is very real and is there every day for me. One thing that gives me peace, and others as well, is the love in the community that we’ve seen.”
Smith ended the ceremony by thanking everyone involved in the memorial dedication, and he talked specifically about how each fallen Airman reflected the rescue motto: “These things we do, that others may live.”