News: Falcon family mourns fallen aviator
PARWAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan – Soldiers and friends of Task Force Falcon, 10th Mountain Division, mourned the loss of one of their own during a memorial at Enduring Faith Chapel, Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan, April 26.
U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 Terry L. Varnadore II, an OH-58 Kiowa helicopter pilot in command assigned to Company C “Blue Max,” TF Phoenix, 10th Combat Aviation Brigade, 10th Mtn. Div., was killed April 23 when his aircraft went down during a night mission in Kapisa province.
“As we sit in this chapel on this unforgettable evening reflecting upon the life of Terry Varnadore, we realize that we have lost a great American hero,” said U.S. Army Chaplain (Capt.) Robert Hearon, of Greenville, S.C.
As the memorial began, there was a mixture of somber faces and soft smiles as Soldiers close to him told stories.
U.S. Army Lt. Col. Dennis McKernan, TF Phoenix commander, spoke highly of the young pilot as Blue Max soldiers looked upon the stand holding his rifle, flight helmet, boots and dog tags.
“Chief Warrant Officer 2 Terry Varnadore was a selfless, positive warrior and honorable man,” said McKernan, of Haddon Township, N.J. “He was extremely competent, smart and very serious about preparing his company for combat and keeping them trained as Blue Max took the fight to the enemy.”
As McKernan stood before a room full of solemn faces, he noted that while mourning is the start of the healing process, aviation Soldiers must stay focused on the mission.
“We are Soldiers, we are still in the fight and we know that we don’t have the luxury to grieve very long. We must move on, because that’s what we do,” said McKernan, “That’s our mission and that’s what our country, our families, and our loved ones need us to do.”
U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 Steven Badgley, of Poughkeepsie, N.Y., considered Varnadore one of his closest friends. The two pilots arrived at Fort Drum in 2007 where their journey together began. They deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom together in 2008; even though they were stationed at two separate locations, Badgley looked forward to flying with Varnadore.
Upon their return, their wives and children became inseparable which made their friendship grow even more.
“Our families were one in the same,” said Badgley. “We made sure we never missed our weekly get-togethers where we chased the kids, played darts and watched plenty of Wipeout.”
Varnadore’s positive personality and helpful nature changed Badgley. He spoke with tears in his eyes as he said goodbye to a friend and colleague.
“He helped me as a pilot and friend,” said Badgley. “Watching him with Casey made you want to be a better husband; watching him with Eva made you want to be a better father. I will always remember Terry with the giant smile that he always wore from cheek to cheek - even in the worst of times.”
Chaplain Hearon acknowledged the difficulty of accepting the loss of a comrade and reminded the soldiers of the great service Varnadore performed as a pilot.
“We don’t always understand why life happens the way it does. Many times we don’t have answers to life’s difficult questions. One thing we can be certain of is that because of men like Terry, millions back home can sleep safely every night.”
Close friend, flight school classmate and fellow pilot, U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 Sean Hennessy could not make it to Varnadore’s memorial, but shared with other soldiers Varnadore’s passion in life.
“Terry loved flying,” said Hennessy, of Bakersfield, Calif. “But it was obvious that his family was his life. On the weekends, or when he had time off from work, it wasn’t unusual for Terry to take his family on an outdoor adventure or road trip.”
Blue Max commander, U.S. Army Capt. Sean Reeves of Shalimar, Fla., emphasized Varnadore’s love of his Family.
“Terry deployed to Afghanistan with his wife pregnant with their second child,” said Reeves, “He would show everyone the pictures of the ultrasounds and would talk at great lengths about his daughter’s upcoming birthday. His family was his life and his motivation.”
Varnadore, 29, a native of Hendersonville, N.C., deployed with his unit in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in October 2010.
His awards and decorations include the Bronze Star, Purple Heart, Air Medal, Army Meritorious Unit Commendation, National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Ribbon, NATO Medal, and Combat Action Badge.