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AFRICOM Service Members Conduct Memorial Mission to Honor Fallen
More than 35 Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) service members climbed aboard two CH-53 Super Stallion Helicopters on May 30, 2011, Memorial Day, and traveled to some of Djibouti's most remote regions to honor CJTF-HOA
GODORIA RANGE, Djibouti - U.S. Marine Corps Corporal Daniel Rodgers pauses to reflect at the wreckage of two downed military helicopters off the northern coast of Djibouti, May 30, 2011. Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 464 organized the memorial flight and ceremony in honor of the service members lost in the accident. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sergeant Dawn M. Price)
6 photos: U.S. AFRICOM Photo
Photo 1 of 6: GODORIA RANGE, Djibouti - U.S. Marine Corps Corporal Daniel Rodgers pauses to reflect at the wreckage of two downed military helicopters off the northern coast of Djibouti, May 30, 2011. Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 464 organized the memorial flight and ceremony in honor of the service members lost in the accident. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sergeant Dawn M. Price) Download full-resolution version
GODORIA RANGE, Djibouti - Marines, soldiers, sailors and airmen stand together as U.S. Air Force Chaplain (Captain) Aaron H. Klaves, assigned to Camp Lemonnier, offers words of inspiration during a ceremony at the wreckage site of two downed helicopters off the northern coast of Djibouti, May 30, 2011. U.S. Marines assigned to the Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 464 organized a memorial flight and ceremony to honor the 21 Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa service members who lost their lives in the accident. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sergeant Dawn M. Price)
6 photos: U.S. AFRICOM Photo
Photo 2 of 6: GODORIA RANGE, Djibouti - Marines, soldiers, sailors and airmen stand together as U.S. Air Force Chaplain (Captain) Aaron H. Klaves, assigned to Camp Lemonnier, offers words of inspiration during a ceremony at the wreckage site of two downed helicopters off the northern coast of Djibouti, May 30, 2011. U.S. Marines assigned to the Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 464 organized a memorial flight and ceremony to honor the 21 Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa service members who lost their lives in the accident. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sergeant Dawn M. Price) Download full-resolution version
DJIBOUTI - Marines, soldiers, sailors and airmen walk toward a waiting CH-53E Super Stallion after attending a memorial ceremony at the wreckage site of two downed helicopters off the northern coast of Djibouti, May 30, 2011. The event was organized by U.S. Marines assigned to the Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 464 in remembrance of fallen Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa service members. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sergeant Dawn M. Price)
6 photos: U.S. AFRICOM Photo
Photo 3 of 6: DJIBOUTI - Marines, soldiers, sailors and airmen walk toward a waiting CH-53E Super Stallion after attending a memorial ceremony at the wreckage site of two downed helicopters off the northern coast of Djibouti, May 30, 2011. The event was organized by U.S. Marines assigned to the Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 464 in remembrance of fallen Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa service members. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sergeant Dawn M. Price) Download full-resolution version
DJIBOUTI - U.S. Air Force Chaplain (Captain) Aaron H. Klaves, assigned to Camp Lemonnier, is deep in thought as he rides in a CH-53 Super Stallion helicopter to the location of the wreckage of two downed military helicopters off the northern coast of Djibouti, May 30, 2011. U.S. Marines assigned to the Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 464 organized the memorial flight to honor Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa service members who lost their lives in the accident. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sergeant Dawn M. Price)
6 photos: U.S. AFRICOM Photo
Photo 4 of 6: DJIBOUTI - U.S. Air Force Chaplain (Captain) Aaron H. Klaves, assigned to Camp Lemonnier, is deep in thought as he rides in a CH-53 Super Stallion helicopter to the location of the wreckage of two downed military helicopters off the northern coast of Djibouti, May 30, 2011. U.S. Marines assigned to the Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 464 organized the memorial flight to honor Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa service members who lost their lives in the accident. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sergeant Dawn M. Price) Download full-resolution version
DJIBOUTI - A gunner aboard a CH-53 Super Stallion with Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 464 watches as another helicopter takes off on the north coast of Djibouti, May 30, 2011. The helicopters were used to ferry participants to and from a Memorial Day ceremony at the site where two helicopters crashed February 17, 2006, killing everyone onboard. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sergeant Dawn M. Price)
6 photos: U.S. AFRICOM Photo
Photo 5 of 6: DJIBOUTI - A gunner aboard a CH-53 Super Stallion with Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 464 watches as another helicopter takes off on the north coast of Djibouti, May 30, 2011. The helicopters were used to ferry participants to and from a Memorial Day ceremony at the site where two helicopters crashed February 17, 2006, killing everyone onboard. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sergeant Dawn M. Price) Download full-resolution version
DJIBOUTI - A CH-53E Super Stallion, piloted by U.S. Marines assigned to the Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 464 (HMH-464), lands in the desert of Djibouti May 30, 2011. The HMH-464 organized a memorial flight, ceremony and transportation onboard two CH-53 Super Stallions' for more than 35 Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) service members to participate in a memorial ceremony to honor fallen CJTF-HOA members. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sergeant Dawn M. Price)
6 photos: U.S. AFRICOM Photo
Photo 6 of 6: DJIBOUTI - A CH-53E Super Stallion, piloted by U.S. Marines assigned to the Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 464 (HMH-464), lands in the desert of Djibouti May 30, 2011. The HMH-464 organized a memorial flight, ceremony and transportation onboard two CH-53 Super Stallions' for more than 35 Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) service members to participate in a memorial ceremony to honor fallen CJTF-HOA members. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sergeant Dawn M. Price) Download full-resolution version
GODORIA RANGE, Djibouti - U.S. Marine Corps Corporal Daniel Rodgers pauses to reflect at the wreckage of two downed military helicopters off the northern coast of Djibouti, May 30, 2011. Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 464 organized the memorial flight and ceremony in honor of the service members lost in the accident. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sergeant Dawn M. Price)
GODORIA RANGE, Djibouti - Marines, soldiers, sailors and airmen stand together as U.S. Air Force Chaplain (Captain) Aaron H. Klaves, assigned to Camp Lemonnier, offers words of inspiration during a ceremony at the wreckage site of two downed helicopters off the northern coast of Djibouti, May 30, 2011. U.S. Marines assigned to the Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 464 organized a memorial flight and ceremony to honor the 21 Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa service members who lost their lives in the accident. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sergeant Dawn M. Price)
DJIBOUTI - Marines, soldiers, sailors and airmen walk toward a waiting CH-53E Super Stallion after attending a memorial ceremony at the wreckage site of two downed helicopters off the northern coast of Djibouti, May 30, 2011. The event was organized by U.S. Marines assigned to the Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 464 in remembrance of fallen Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa service members. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sergeant Dawn M. Price)
DJIBOUTI - U.S. Air Force Chaplain (Captain) Aaron H. Klaves, assigned to Camp Lemonnier, is deep in thought as he rides in a CH-53 Super Stallion helicopter to the location of the wreckage of two downed military helicopters off the northern coast of Djibouti, May 30, 2011. U.S. Marines assigned to the Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 464 organized the memorial flight to honor Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa service members who lost their lives in the accident. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sergeant Dawn M. Price)
DJIBOUTI - A gunner aboard a CH-53 Super Stallion with Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 464 watches as another helicopter takes off on the north coast of Djibouti, May 30, 2011. The helicopters were used to ferry participants to and from a Memorial Day ceremony at the site where two helicopters crashed February 17, 2006, killing everyone onboard. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sergeant Dawn M. Price)
DJIBOUTI - A CH-53E Super Stallion, piloted by U.S. Marines assigned to the Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 464 (HMH-464), lands in the desert of Djibouti May 30, 2011. The HMH-464 organized a memorial flight, ceremony and transportation onboard two CH-53 Super Stallions' for more than 35 Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) service members to participate in a memorial ceremony to honor fallen CJTF-HOA members. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sergeant Dawn M. Price)
More than 35 Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) service members climbed aboard two CH-53 Super Stallion Helicopters on May 30, 2011, Memorial Day, and traveled to some of Djibouti's most remote regions to honor CJTF-HOA members who lost their lives in two separate aircraft accidents.

This memorial flight, as it has come to be known, held a considerable level of importance for one of the passengers, U.S. Air Force Chaplain (Captain) Aaron Klaves, who led the joint-service members through short devotionals at each location.

"This event is one of significance and weight," Klaves said, before climbing aboard one of the large helicopters parked on the Camp Lemonnier flight-line. "We're on this mission to pay tribute to men and women who gave their lives in service to their country. What could be more important?"

The group's first stop was atop a rocky plateau in the Godoria Range, along Djibouti's northern coast. On June 23, 2003, two CH-53 helicopter crews were gathered around their aircraft on this high ground to observe a B-52 Stratofortress on maneuvers when an M117 general purpose bomb exploded, killing U.S. Marine Captain Seth Michaud and injuring eight others. The second leg of the mission took the group to a desolate beach on the Gulf of Aden where, on February 17, 2006, two CH-53 helicopters collided in mid-air, killing eight Marines, two airmen, and injuring two others.

At each accident site, some CJTF-HOA service members talked quietly among themselves while others looked out in silence over the Red Sea. At the Godoria plateau, others touched the twisted remnants of the helicopters as if to confirm that the events actually occurred.

During the devotionals, Klaves read aloud the names of those who perished and a wreath of flowers was laid near each wreckage site.

"Our job is inherently dangerous," U.S. Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class James Decker said. "It's noble to defend your country and this event presents us with a moment to say 'thank you.' What you hope to happen on Memorial Day is for Americans to understand and appreciate the decision her young men and women make to serve their country."

U.S. Marine Captain B.P. Sanders, HMH 464 CH-53 pilot and section lead for the memorial flight, had never visited the accidents sites before.

"This memorial flight brings with it a constant reminder of those we have lost," Sanders said. "It was the best mission I've flown here so far -- a mission of honor and fulfillment. It really shines a light on their sacrifice."

CJTF-HOA members have participated in annual memorial flights since Memorial Day, 2004.
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