In this week’s issue we include the findings of the investigation into the Black Hawk helicopter crash in the Santa Rosa Sound in March. The findings of the report indicate the pilots were to blame for the crash that left 11 service members on board dead because they disobeyed direct orders by flying into worsening weather.
The fog was incredibly thick that evening and the report faults the lead pilot, Chief Warrant Officer George Wayne Griffin, Jr., for pushing ahead with the mission and the crew for not challenging the overconfident pilot.
With more than 6,000 flight hours, Griffin was a respected and decorated veteran described by his commanders as one of the finest helicopter pilots they had. He had more than 1,000 flight hours during combat and served in Iraq twice.
His list of awards and medals is impressive to say the least, including the Meritorious Service Medal and the Bronze Star.
His co-pilot, Chief Warrant Officer George David Strother was also a seasoned combat pilot with more than 700 combat hours claimed.
These two had families and children who they surely kept in the forefront of their minds. While perhaps disproportionate in measure, each of us has made decisions we wish we could take back. And surely, when you have others’ lives in your hands, a second thought should be taken to ensure you are doing what is right for all. Therefore, the headline about them disobeying orders or being overconfident should not be our last memory. If they were standing here today knowing the outcome of their decision, they probably would have done it differently.
While surely there is a lot to be learned from the tragedy in the Sound, the final song is not about why they died or how it happened. It doesn’t make them any less heroic. It makes them human.
The real story is about how they lived their lives, providing service to their communities and bringing honor to their country. Perhaps the story of how many lives they’ve saved should be included in the report. Maybe we could include all of the special moments they shared with their families. Because that is the real story. The report is a story to be published but by no means is it the headline for their lives or their deaths. They are still admired and honored for walking a path in life chosen by a few.