News: USMC helicopter pilots honored 9 years after death in Iraq
Story by Cpl. Jennifer Pirante
MIRAMAR, Calif. - Friends, family and fellow service members gathered for a memorial dedication for fallen Marines Capt. Ben Sammis and Capt. Travis Ford at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif., Jan. 21.
Sammis and Ford, helicopter pilots with Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 267, Marine Aircraft Group 39, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, Camp Pendleton, Calif., were killed during Operation Iraqi Freedom when their AH-1W Super Cobra helicopter crashed near Ali Aziziyal, Iraq, April 5, 2003.
“Today, we honor Ben and Travis and pay respect to our fallen comrades,” said retired Marine Lt. Col. Stephen Heywood, who served as the HMLA-267 commanding officer November 2002 to May 2004. “We honor their ultimate sacrifice and know that they fought with us because they believed in freedom.”
Sammis’s father and mother could not make it to the memorial service, but asked Heywood to read a letter during the ceremony.
Steve Sammis, Benjamin’s father wrote, “Just as there is a wound in our soul, it is one shared by so many others, a wound that with time will heal somewhat, but will never completely go away.”
Heywood said, during the ceremony, the Sammis family sat concurrently upon the granite bench unveiled to honor Benjamin on Memorial Day 2010 in his hometown, Rehoboth, Mass. He was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery.
The 1996 Citadel graduate was highly decorated with the Purple Heart, Air Medal, National Defense Medal and various service and campaign medals.
Ford graduated Ogallala High School in Ogallala, Neb., and went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 1997. He was buried at Fort McPherson National Cemetery near Maxwell, Neb.
Near the end of the ceremony, two plaques honoring Sammis and Ford were revealed to honor the Marines while the Marine’s Hymn played and friends and family mourned.
After the ceremony, friends and family visited the Mount Soledad Veterans Memorial where Sammis and Ford’s plaques are permanently exhibited.