On Memorial Day, we stop to consider the wars our nation’s soldiers have fought — and often, are still fighting.
This year, however, we are not at war, and in these first five months of 2023 no service members have been killed in combat, according to available data. That doesn’t mean, however, that they are not still risking their lives.
Fourteen soldiers and members of the National Guard have died so far this year in training missions, all of which involved helicopter crashes.
Most recently, in late April, two U.S. Army helicopters collided and crashed in a daytime incident in Alaska, killing three soldiers who were part of a unit known as the “Arctic Angels.”
In March, two Black Hawk helicopters collided in a nighttime exercise over Kentucky, killing nine soldiers with the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, a division known as the “Screaming Eagles.” The deceased ranged in age from 23 to 36.
And in mid-February, two crew members died when a Tennessee National Guard helicopter crashed in Alabama.
These soldiers were killed while learning the intricate and difficult skills needed to protect us in the event that peacetime turns to wartime or special missions need to be undertaken. They put their lives on the line to prepare and ready themselves, willing to learn maneuvers and skills that are dangerous.
These tragedies may not get as much attention as wartime, in-combat missions often do, but we still should focus on each soldier’s story as a reminder of the courage and honor they exhibited.
The incidents in Alaska and Kentucky prompted the U.S. Army to order a “safety stand-down,” grounding all military aircraft including those overseas, except for emergencies, until an evaluation of maintenance, pilot training and safety precautions could be completed. Each of these tragedies requires a full accounting so the families of those who died get the answers they need, and so our soldiers are kept as safe as possible as they continue the efforts undertaken by their fallen comrades.
At a time when war may seem distant, as we continue to watch the people of Ukraine fight and die for their freedom, this Memorial Day should remind us that peace can be fleeting. Our heroes, like generations of service members before them, even now are risking everything as they prepare to keep us safe. Beyond the store sales and barbecues and days at the beach, Memorial Day is a day of solemn commemoration, a day of flags and poppy flowers, of ceremonies at our nation’s cemeteries and local memorial parks, and above all, a day to remember those who sacrificed everything for us.
War might not swirl around us now but their sacrifices continue. We honor them best by remembering them always.
MEMBERS OF THE EDITORIAL BOARD are experienced journalists who offer reasoned opinions, based on facts, to encourage informed debate about the issues facing our community.