Falcon Family Mourns Fallen Hero Aviator
(May 2, 2011)
PROVINCE, Afghanistan (4/28/2011) – 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.
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.”
Soldiers pay their respects to U.S. Army Chief
Warrant Officer 2 Terry L. Varnadore II, of Hendersonville, N.C.
during a memorial ceremony at Enduring Faith Chapel April 26.
Varnadore was killed when his OH-58 Kiowa helicopter went down in
Kapisa Province, Afghanistan, April 23, 2011. Photo by U.S. Army
Pfc. Michael Syner
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
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.
By Combined Joint Task Force 101
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