By Staff Sgt. Heidi Goodsell
/ Published January 13, 2021
Airmen from 56th Rescue Squadron, 56th Helicopter Maintenance Unit and 57th RQS rucked up to 22 miles this week in memory of the fallen 56th RQS HH-60G Pave Hawk crew of Jolly 22.
U.S. Air Force Capt. Sean Ruane, Capt. Christopher Stover, Tech. Sgt. Dale Mathews and Staff Sgt. Afton Ponce were killed on Jan. 7, 2014, when their helicopter crashed while performing a low-level training mission in England.
After serving 12 years at Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England, the 56th RQS relocated to Aviano Air Base in May 2018. Although the squadron moved more than 1,000 miles away, on the anniversary of the tragic accident the tradition and memories are still carried on.
“This is an opportunity for us to honor and remember the fallen members,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Michael Kingry, 56th RQS commander. “Even though we have moved from England to Aviano, we want to show their families and show the unit that we still honor and remember them today.”
Airmen of the 31st and 48th Fighter Wings set a goal of 22,000 burpees over 22 days. That goal was not only met but more than doubled with 52,000 burpees in total.
“Even if you didn’t know any of the members of Jolly 22 personally, you definitely know their spirit,” said Capt. James Gray, 56th RQS HH-60G rescue pilot. “I see it every day as I walk the halls of the rescue squadrons and as I hear stories, not only of them, but the many members that we’ve lost along the way. Rescue is a unique culture [and] the Jolly 22 crew embodied it.”
On the last day of the ruck, 56th RQS held a memorial ceremony in honor of the Airmen who gave the ultimate sacrifice 7 years ago on the coast of England.
Capt. Gray continues, “We all share a common just cause: these things we do… that others may live.”