Witherite Law Group Remembers Crew 2
Written by Jeremy Kokenes, USAF (Ret); Executive Director, Chief Operating Officer, Witherite Law Group
The last Monday in May. A sacred holiday for our nation. Memorial Day. It's the U.S. federal holiday for honoring and mourning military personnel who died serving in the U.S. armed forces.
Each Memorial Day we have an opportunity to reflect on the men and women who paid the ultimate price...they sacrificed their life for freedom. Other’s freedom. Our freedom.
I had the honor and privilege of donning the uniform of our nation for over 21 years. I remember many on Memorial Day. But there’s one group I remember often.
Crew 2 was one of my ‘sister’ aircrews in the 7th Special Operations Squadron. Known as the “finest flying squadron in the US Air Force”, the “Mighty 7th" was located at Royal Air Force Mildenhall in the UK. We flew the mighty MC-130H Combat Talon II, an incredible aircraft with immense capabilities.
During March of 2005, we deployed to the Balkans to assist the war-torn country of Albania. The Combat Talon II’s mission, our mission, was to infiltrate, extricate and resupply U.S. Special Operations forces and equipment in hostile or denied territory. We also were charged with assisting other nations and their special operations forces with similar missions.
On 31 March 2005, Crew 2, call sign “Wrath 11,” flew one such important mission...a low-level, night-vision goggle ‘airdrop’ at altitudes of 300-feet or less. Tragically, this would be their last mission.
All nine souls on board were lost.
These nine were men of all ages, races, religions, ethnic backgrounds and walks of life...Native American, African American, Asian American, “gingers,” comedians, husbands, fathers, brothers, warriors.
They were Patriots. And in the end, they had a common label: HERO!
Sadly, they left behind wives, children, moms, dads, siblings, significant others, teammates, and more. They also left behind a legacy of patriotism and service before self.
To this day, no words can truly describe the feelings and emotions of that time. Each Memorial Day I reflect on their faces, the memories, the notifications to their families, the kids...the loss.
They were laid to rest across the nation. From small, hometown cemeteries to Arlington National Cemetery. Thousands attended their memorials to honor them.
At the formal squadron memorial, military tradition calls for one final ‘roll call.’ A last plea. A last hope they are not truly gone. That day it was my honor to call out the following heroes:
U.S. Air Force Capt. Todd R. Bracy, Pilot, 34, of Murphysboro, Illinois
U.S. Air Force Capt. James S. Cronin, Navigator, 32, of Oak Grove Village, Illinois
U.S. Air Force Capt. Surender D. Kothakota, Pilot, 30, of Fayetteville, North Carolina
U.S. Air Force Capt. Gil C. Williamson, Electronic Warfare Officer, 31, of Dike, Texas
U.S. Air Force 1st Lt. Ray C. Owens, Jr., Electronic Warfare Officer, 32, of Birmingham, Alabama
U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Lawrence B. Gray, Flight Engineer, 40, of Chester, South Carolina
U.S. Air Force Technical Sgt. Glenn P. “Rocco” Lastes, Direct Support Operator, 39, Southington, Connecticut
U.S. Air Force Technical Sgt. James R. Henry, Loadmaster, 30, of Valparaiso, Florida
U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Patrick R. Pentico, Loadmaster, 22, of Hanksville, Utah
Crew 2 was special. But not just because they were a sister aircrew. They represent the true meaning of Memorial Day.
This and every Memorial Day, may we reflect on and remember those who paid the ultimate sacrifice for Freedom.
Including Crew 2.