It was one year ago that a UH-60 Black Hawk Helicopter conducting a training exercise crashed into Santa Rosa Sound near Navarre killing all eleven crew members aboard. A ceremony honoring the seven marines and four Army National Guardsmen was held Thursday evening.
A public ceremony was held at the Navarre Beach Marine Park, on Gulf Blvd. Braving the wind and rain; several hundred people were in attendance including community leaders, military members, and family members of the fallen.
Attending the ceremony was Billy Flynn, father of Staff Sgt. Liam Flynn who was stationed at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina and aboard the Black Hawk that fateful night. Flynn says he heard the news about his son from his wife, “My wife rang me, I was at work. And the Marines had come to our house. We’re from Ireland, he was Irish.”
Staff Sgt. Flynn enlisted in the US Marine Corps in 2006 and joined the Marine Special Operations Command four years later. Flynn served four tours of duty and has received the Purple Heart and a Bronze Star. He was preparing for his fifth deployment when his chopper crashed in thick fog a year ago.
Again, Billy Flynn, “When we were in Ireland when it all happened, the Marines came from where they were based in London and they were absolutely brilliant to us. We can’t say nothing wrong. My wife is here and all my kids as well. We’ll always be here now.”
The ceremony was organized by the “Remembering Black Hawk 11” committee. Numerous songs were played throughout the tribute including “Angel By Your Side,” Taps, and Amazing Grace by the Emerald Coast Bagpipers.
Les Matheson is a Pipe Major. Matheson says he’s honored to attend and be of service to the community, “Our band supports almost all the military events in the local area. We heard about this and it was just a no brainer. We had to get involved. We’ve been planning with them since this thing started.”
Chief Deputy Bob Johnson for the Santa Rosa County Sheriff's Office emceed the ceremony while several guest speakers took to the stage including Santa Rosa County District 4 Commissioner Rob Williamson and Lt. Col John Bonnette of the Lousianna National Guard.
Lt. Col. Bonnette voiced his appreciation and extended his sincerest gratitude to the community, “I’m almost sure that none of the members of this community knew these men but what has occurred over the past year has reminded us of what a family does when it suffers such a great loss. From individuals to private companies, to government and military agencies, the outpouring of love and support for the families, the Marines, and Louisiana Guardsmen will ensure the sacrifice that these great Americans and their families will never be forgotten.”
The ceremony ended with a final roll call of the fallen by Nathan Harris, the Director of the Marine Rucker Memorial March. A flag was presented to each soldier’s family by a fellow ruck marcher after being read aloud.
After the ceremony, law enforcement escorted the ruck marchers over the Navarre Beach Bridge, as they symbolically set off toward Navarre Park to begin their 770-mile memorial march back to Camp Lejeune.
The community continues to remember the fallen servicemen with another public ceremony on Friday at 9 .a.m at Navarre Park, (8513 Navarre Pkw) with a dedication and partial unveiling of the Black Hawk 11 Memorial.
Then at 10am The Marine Raider Memorial Marchers will depart Navarre Park on the first segment of their march to Camp Lejeune, N.C., symbolizing bringing their fallen brothers-in-arms home.