KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan - Soldiers throughout Task Force Demon, 1st Combat Aviation Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, paid tribute to their five fallen brothers of Aerosmith 35 in a memorial ceremony held at Kandahar Airfield, Dec. 21, 2013.
The five Task Force Demon soldiers lost on Aerosmith 35, a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter, were Chief Warrant Officer 2 Randy Billings, Chief Warrant Officer 2 Joshua Silverman, Sgt. 1st Class Omar Forde, Sgt. Peter Bohler, and Spc. Terry Gordon.
The memorial ceremony, hosted by the brigade chaplain Maj. Joshua Gilliam, had in attendance senior leaders from across Regional Command-South and hundreds of CAB Soldiers paying their respects.
The Commander of Task Force Demon, Col. Matthew Lewis, reminded his soldiers of the importance of the mission and the task which lays ahead.
“I want you to know how proud I am of all of you…this is a team effort and your importance to the mission is not defined by your proximity to the target,” said Lewis. “Do not let this incident dampen your spirits…do not give the enemy that victory. Rather, use this tragedy to strengthen your resolve and renew your commitment to one another and the mission.”
Capt. Andrew Wempe, Company B, 3rd Battalion 1st Aviation Regiment (Assault Helicopter) commander, lost an entire crew with the crash of Aerosmith 35.
“These men paid the ultimate sacrifice for our country and our way of life. They were experts and professionals in what they did as soldiers and aviators, and were friends to us all,” Wempe said. “If they were here, they would all stand in front of the company, tell us to raise our heads high, and get back into the fight. Although we grieve their loss, the Black Knights (Company B) will honor their sacrifice by continuing our mission here in Afghanistan until everyone comes home.”
Capt. Christopher Loftus, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Combat Aviation Brigade commander, had this to say about his soldier Forde.
“G.K. Chesterton said it best: ‘The true soldier does not fight because he hates who is in front of him, he fights because he loves those who are behind him,’” said Loftus. “I have been praying that some day when Omar’s boys are old enough, they can understand how great a man their father is, and they can feel a great pride that their father loved them so much, and he loved this country so much, he laid down his life to protect them.”
Each soldier on Aerosmith 35 was also eulogized by a fellow soldier who knew them best. Gilliam finished the ceremony with some final thoughts for Task Force Demon soldiers to reflect on.
“I know these men willingly volunteered to serve their nation in time of war, to deploy to combat, to manifest themselves on risky missions,” said Gilliam. “They died in willing service—giving their last full measure of devotion so that others may live—so that we may live, not just survive, but so we may live!”
Billings was born in Heavener, Oklahoma Sept. 1, 1979. He enlisted in the United States Army in the spring of 1997 and served as an Animal Care Specialist from 1997 to 2007. He was later selected for Warrant Officer Candidate School in 2007 before attending flight school at Fort Rucker, Alabama. He is survived by his wife Ashley.
Silverman was born in Scottsdale, Arizona, on March 3, 1978. He enlisted in the United States Army in the fall of 2005 and served as an Aircraft Electrician from 2005 to 2008. He was later selected for Warrant Officer Candidate School in 2009 before attending flight school at Fort Rucker, Alabama.
Forde was born in Saint Andrew, Jamaica, Sept. 3, 1985 and grew up in Marietta, Georgia. He enlisted in the United States Army in the winter of 2005, and served as an electronic warfare specialist until his death.
Bohler was born in Willow Spring, North Carolina, March 30, 1984. He enlisted in the United States Army in the summer of 2007, and served as a UH-60 Blackhawk crew chief until his death.
Gordon was born in Shubuta, Mississippi, Sept. 21, 1991. He enlisted in the United States Army in the summer of 2011, and served as a generator mechanic until being selected as a UH-60 Black Hawk door gunner during 1st Combat Aviation Brigade’s deployment to southern Afghanistan.