The backdrop to the memorial for the 5 Soldiers from B Co, 7-158th Aviation Regiment couldn’t have been more fitting. Behind the five sets of boots, M-16s, flight helmets and ID tags was a looming UH-47 Chinook helicopter. The one piece of equipment all 5 Soldiers loved. The one piece of equipment that took their lives.
Chief Warrant Officer 4 David Carter, Chief Warrant Officer 2 Bryan Nichols, Staff Sgt. Patrick Hamburger, Specialist Alex Bennett and Specialist Spencer Duncan were killed August 6 when their Chinook, carrying 25 Navy SEALS, crashed in Wardak province, Afghanistan.
The memorial service, held Sunday at the unit hangar in Olathe, Kansas, gave family members, friends and comrades a chance to remember and honor those lives lost. Signs bearing the unit motto “With It or On It” and red, white and blue ribbons adorned the fencing outside the hangar doors, showing support for the Unit and family members.
These were the first deaths Bravo Company has been forced to endure since their deployments to Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan. Fellow Soldiers stood before a gathering of over 400 people, speaking of each individual Soldier. Stories of friendship and camaraderie were relayed, giving a true sense of just how close the unit is with one another.
Although closed to the general public, members of the Kansas Patriot Guard lined up just outside the hangar doors, bearing American flags and saluting the fallen. Others in attendance included members of the VFW and American Legion, local fire department and law enforcement personnel and Kansas governor Sam Brownback.
I only knew one of the five Soldiers – CW2 Nichols. He was the Unit Administrator for Bravo Company when I first arrived in Kansas last September. The first time I visited the hangar, Chief Nichols took me around for a tour of the offices and introduced me to other office personnel. Having been a UA at one point myself, I asked Chief how he liked the job. He smiled briefly and said he didn’t. He said he wanted nothing more than to fly all the time and was planning to let go of his civilian job and return to flying full-time for the Army. His eyes lit up and his smile grew into a grin as he talked about flying. I didn’t know Chief Nichols very long and I certainly didn’t know him well but what I know for sure is that flying was what he loved to do. He died honorably and courageously, fighting for our freedoms and proudly serving his country. Chief Warrant Officer 2 Bryan Nichols will always be remembered for the service, commitment and sacrifice he gave his country. He died doing the one thing he loved to do most. And that was to fly.
– by Sgt. First Class Kelli M. Harr