Fallen servicemen to be honored during ceremony

One year ago on July 10th 2017, 15 Marines and one Navy Corpsman lost their lives when a Marine KC-130T aircraft went down in a soybean field near Itta Bena.

There will be a dedication ceremony of the YANKY 72 Memorial on July 14, 2018. The public is invited to the ceremony which will begin at 10 a.m. at Mississippi Valley State University with the Unveiling of the Memorial Ceremony beginning at 11:30 across the street at the Leflore County Incubator.

WATCH A LIVE STREAM OF THE EVENT STARTING AT 10 a.m.

Governor Phil Bryant along with Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith, and the Sergeant Major of the United States Marine Corps, Ronald Green, will be attending and speaking at the day’s ceremonies. Over 200 family members and friends of the 16 servicemen will be present for the weekend’s activities along with the VMGR-452 squadron and Marine Ruckers.

“I don’t believe anybody in Mississippi knew a single serviceman that died on July 10, but you wouldn’t be able to tell by the outpouring of support we have received as we were able to raise over $85,000 to build this memorial,” said YANKY 72 Memorial Committee Chairman, Clifton Addison. “This memorial will honor the legacy these Marines and Sailor left behind. Mississippi will never forget what happened the afternoon of July 10.”

Seven of the servicemen belonged to Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command’s 2nd Raider Battalion and were traveling from North Carolina to the West Coast for pre-deployment training in Arizona. The other nine were KC-130 aircrew belonging to Marine Aerial Refueler Squadron (VMGR-452), a reserve unit out of Newburgh, New York.

“When our loved ones die, our greatest fear is they will be forgotten. This amazing community in Mississippi has made it their mission, to make sure our heroes are honored and never forgotten,” said Anna Johnson, wife of GySgt Brendan Johnson who died in the plane crash.

U.S. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith submitted a Congressional Record statement to honor servicemen. In addition, Hyde-Smith has also introduced a Senate resolution to designate Sept. 23-29, 2018, as “Gold Star Families Remembrance Week” to honor all families of fallen members of the Armed Forces.

“We have a responsibility to ensure we preserve the memory of those who gave that last full measure of devotion for our nation,” Hyde-Smith said. “Immediately after the accident and since then, first responders and the citizens of Mississippi rallied in support of the fallen.  The unveiling of a permanent monument will culminate a significant effort in Mississippi and across the nation to memorialize these brave young men.”

In April, Governor Phil Bryant signed Senate Bill 2458 that renamed a portion of U.S. Highway 82 in Leflore County, YANKY 72 Memorial Highway. The portion will extend from the site of the YANKY 72 Memorial to the Leflore/Sunflower County line. A memorial plaque will be provided by the Department of Mississippi’s Marine Corps League and will be placed at the nearest location of the crash along the highway.

During the dedication ceremony, Commissioner Mike Tagert of the Northern Transportation District will unveil the YANKY 72 Memorial Highway sign that will be displayed on Hwy 82.

Below is U.S. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith’s Statement that was submitted to the Congressional Record.

Honoring The Fallen Of The “YANKY 72” Crash

M_ President, I would like to call attention to a special event occurring this Saturday in Mississippi to honor 16 brave service members who lost their lives a year ago in a tragic military aircraft crash.

I look forward to joining family members, Marine Corps leaders, and the people of Leflore County, Mississippi, to honor the 15 Marines and one Navy Corpsman who died on July 10, 2017, when their Marine Corps KC-130T “Yanky 72” crashed near Itta Bena, Mississippi.

We have a responsibility to ensure we preserve the memory of those who gave that last full measure of devotion for our nation.  Those we lost last July include:  Corporal Daniel Baldassare, Staff Sergeant Robert Cox, Captain Sean Elliott, Major Caine Goyette, Gunnery Sergeant Mark Hopkins, Gunnery Sergeant Brendan Johnson, Sergeant Julian Kevianne, Staff Sergeant William Kundrat, Sergeant Chad Jenson, Sergeant Talon Leach, Sergeant Owen Lennon, Sergeant Joseph Murray, Corporal Collin Schaaff, Sergeant Dietrich Schmieman, Staff Sergeant Joshua Snowden, and Petty Officer 2nd Class Ryan Lohrey.

Immediately after the accident and since then, first responders and the citizens of Mississippi rallied in support of the fallen.  The unveiling of a permanent monument will culminate a significant effort in Mississippi and across the nation to memorialize these brave young men.

I am proud of the people of my state for their commitment to remember the fallen and to support their families.  A recent Greenwood Commonwealtheditorial thoughtfully expresses the significance of this work.

M_ President, I ask unanimous consent the following July 11, 2018, Greenwood Commonwealtheditorial titled “Open Arms for Families of the Fallen” be included in the Record.

Open Arms for Families of the Fallen

This weekend promises to be a highly emotional one for the families of the 16 servicemen who lost their lives a year ago when the transport plane on which they were flying fell out of the sky for reasons still not publicly disclosed.

It also could be a very meaningful weekend for the greater Greenwood community, which has become associated with these 16 by a tragically sad quirk of fate.

When the KC-130T with the call name of Yanky 72 was flying over the Mississippi Delta on July 10, 2017, no one on board or on the ground below could have imagined that its final destination would be a remote soybean field on the western edge of Leflore County rather than an airstrip in California.

It was a horrific accident, claiming the lives of everyone on board — 15 Marines and one Navy corpsman.

Some 200 family members of those who died, plus a large number of the fallen servicemen’s comrades, are expected to start arriving Thursday in Leflore County.  For the next 72 hours or so, they will be our guests while they remember, grieve and perhaps connect with some of the good people of this community who, though they didn’t personally know the 16, responded as if they did.

Today, the Commonwealth publishes a special section that not only explains what’s planned to memorialize the 16, but also gives some insight into who the 16 were, and tells how some of their families have coped with their loss since that fateful afternoon.

Certainly, service in the military comes with risks. Everyone who signs up for it knows it, as do all of their friends and relatives.  But death is not an ordinary outcome when you’re just flying from one base to another.  It would be hard to get one’s mind around losing a loved one in a war zone, but losing one so unexpectedly as this has to be all that much tougher.

A large group of state and local volunteers has organized the Yanky 72 Memorial Weekend in a way that it hopes will give some emotional aid to those who are grieving, while also reassuring them that their sons, brothers, husbands, and boyfriends have not been forgotten, nor will they be.

The families will be given the space to grieve in private, to visit the crash scene, to share their experiences with others who had relatives on that plane, to do whatever it is that would give them some consolation.  Some may want to be left alone; some may want to connect.

We know this community will respect their wishes and do whatever it takes to make their weekend one in which they feel surrounded by sympathy and love.

Saturday’s public events, including the unveiling of a permanent memorial in Itta Bena, will provide a way to acknowledge appreciation for the ultimate sacrifice paid for by these 16. It would be wonderful if a large number of citizens from this community turned out.

For some of the fallen servicemen’s families who come, this may be their first and only trip into the Delta. Others may make it a place of personal pilgrimage.

Whichever occurs, let’s hope that we become the locus not of painful memories but of comforting ones.