ST Comrades & Family Members,
In conversation with Col Armfield yesterday I mentioned how Memorial Push-Ups started, at least for me. Col Armfield asked me to share this story with you.
The date was July 22, 1991. I received a call at home from our First Sgt.,SMSgt Tony Urenda, (1723 CCS) who informed me that the 123rd Combat Control Team (ANG) was here at Hurlburt/Eglin Range for parachute training jumps and they have not been able to locate one of their jumpers, TSgt David Atkinson. Dave was on the CCT at Hurlburt and had just left active duty to become a member of the Air National Guard CCT in Louisville, Kentucky. I worked with Dave many times in the past when I was assigned to the special mission unit (Det. 1, MACOS, now 24 STS) at Pope AFB, NC. In that timeframe Dave and many of the Hurlburt CCT were primary augmentees to our unit and Dave was one of the best in the business and a great person, too. It was evening, about 8:30 PM when I left the house to meet up with Tony and few others at the squadron to drive out to the drop zone and search for Dave. The 123rd jumpers were already conducting the search and we all joined in. About 30 minutes later his body was found, he had been killed instantly upon impact. After Safety finished their on-sight investigation and pictures of the parachute equipment where taken, we put Dave in a body-bag, zipped it up and loaded him in the bed of our truck for transport to the mortuary. We were all very distraught, we were lost for words, no one knew what to say or do at that point. So I decided to "fall-in" the team members to do push-ups to honor our comrade, TSgt David A. Atkinson. We finished the push-ups, we shared "man hugs" with each other and made the long quiet drive back to Hurlburt. And that is how and why "Memorial Push-Ups" became a part of our DNA. R.I.P. David.
Since its Memorial Day Weekend I thought I'd share another story with you. This one is about TSgt John Chapman and his widow, Valerie.
The USAF STARS Parachute Team was asked to jump into the Coca Cola 600 Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Memorial Day, May 26, 2002. Mike West, who was a former teammate and friend of the Chapman's, called me (as the STARS Team Coordinator) to ask if it was possible to honor John Chapman and Jason Cunningham at the race. Having worked with Jay Howard (Jay Howard Events) many times before I called Jay to ask the question... he was all about it. We invited Valerie, SSgt Gabe Brown and TSgt Keary Miller to have them honored in the pre-race ceremony. The jump went well as did the recognition of our two fallen brothers and Val, Gabe and Keary. At that time the Air Force helped sponsor the #21 car, owned by the Wood Brothers and driven by Eliot Sadler. Mike West asked Sadler's publicist if he knew Mark Martin's publicist, which he did. Mike asked if he could set it up for Valerie to meet Mark Martin after the driver introductions because Martin was John Chapman's favorite driver. By the way, Valerie, daughters, Madison & Brianna, and John were to attend the race as Valerie bought tickets to the race to surprise John when he returned from deployment. Valerie got to meet Mark Martin. She gave him John's CCT coin and said "the CCT motto inscribed on the coin) is First There, good luck, win the race in honor of John." If you check NASCAR history, Mark Martin won the race that Memorial Day, the first race he'd won in over two years. Incidentally, it was also my birthday that day (May 26) and that first place finish by Mark Martin was my best present. We all shed a tear.
I'll be on vacation (on a cruise) this Memorial Day weekend and not able to attend any of the local ceremonies or the festivities in Columbia, Missouri for the families of our fallen, hosted by Mike & Jill McReynolds. But rest assured, I'll do my Memorial Push-Ups for all of our fallen teammates. Also, of particular note, we lost three brave men on Memorial Day, May 30, 2005, Jeremy Fresques, Derek Argel and Casey Crate. Let's honor them and all of our fallen teammates by knocking some out this Memorial Day.
The number of push-ups you do is up to you. But, here are a few numbers you may consider (2-count or 4-count).
22 - Total CCT/PJ/CRO/STO in the AF KIA since 9/11
18 - Total CCT KIA since 1953
17 - Special Tactics operators KIA since 9/11
11 - CCT/STOs KIA since 9/11
11 - PJs/CRO KIA since 9/11
10 - Standard number
Consider plus 1 for: AF TACP KIA (non-SOF)
Enjoy your extended weekend and remember...
Wayne G. Norrad, CIV, DAF
24th Special Operations Wing
Public Relations & Program Analyst (XPA)