By: John Cuddy – May, 2019
Memorial Day does not belong to the Republicans, the Democrats, or any elected official. It is not intended for honoring the men and women currently serving in the military or our Veterans.
Memorial Day belongs to the six American Heroes written about in this article, and all who gave their lives defending our great nation.
A US Marine from Swampscott, Massachusetts, Captain Jennifer J. Harris was twenty-eight years old, when she was killed in action February 7, 2007, while serving during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Her helicopter crashed in Iraq during Combat Operations. She was assigned to Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 364, Marine Aircraft Group 39, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, I Marine Expeditionary Force, out of Camp Pendleton, California.
A graduate of Swampscott High, and in May of 2000, the US Naval Academy. Captain Harris was a US Marine Corp helicopter pilot.
US Air Force, twenty-one-year-old, Airman First Class Elizabeth Nicole Jacobson, hailed from Riviera Beach, Florida.
Airman Jacobson, was in Iraq on September 28, 2005, and was guarding a convoy originating from Camp Bucca, when an improvised explosive device near the Iraqi town of Safwan hit the vehicle she was riding in. The explosion killed her and fellow soldier U.S. Army Sergeant Steve Morin Jr., 34 years old, from Arlington, Texas. A third soldier who was manning the vehicle’s turret weapon was injured but survived the attack. Airman “Liz” Jacobson was assigned to the 17th Security Forces Squadron based at Goodfellow Air Force Base, Texas and had deployed to Iraq as part of the 586th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron. Airman Jacobson had been in the Air Force for two years and had been deployed to Iraq for more than three months when she died defending our freedom.
US Coast Guard Pilot Lt. Colleen Cain was from Burlington, Iowa, she was a helicopter pilot who was searching for a missing fishing boat crew, on January 7, 1982. Her helicopter crashed on the Island of Molokai and killed her and two other crewmembers, Lt. Cmdr. Horton ‘Buzz’ Johnson and Aviation Machinist Mate 2nd Class David L. Thompson.
The helicopter crew was searching for the Pan Am, a fishing vessel, which was reported sinking in stormy seas with seven people aboard. On Jan. 7, 1982, Lieutenant Cain’s aircraft was launched to respond to a distress call from the Pan Am, the 74-foot fishing boat that was taking on water off Maui and was in danger of sinking.
The helicopter lifted off from USCG Air Station Barbers Point, Hawaii in torrential rains and heavy winds at 4 a.m. However, by 5:15 a.m., the US Coast Guard had lost radio contact with the crew. Almost nine hours later, another helicopter discovered the helicopter’s wreckage on a steep ridge in Molokai Island’s Wailua Valley.
North Carolina National Guard’s Ashley White was actually from Marlington, Ohio, and attended Marlington High School and later graduated from Kent State. Lt. White served as a member of a US Army Cultural Support Team attached to a Joint Special Operations Task Force in Afghanistan. While serving on a Cultural Support Team Member on her first deployment to Afghanistan, Lt. Ashley White was killed during combat operations in Kandahar Province, Afghanistan on October 22, 2011 when the assault force she was supporting triggered an improvised explosive device.
From Pine Plains, New York, US Navy Senior Chief Shannon Kent spoke English, Arabic (four dialects), Spanish, French, and Portuguese. The US Navy denied Senior Chief Kent’s plans to attend a Naval Officer Commissioning Program in clinical psychology, because the 35-year-old mother of two had previously been diagnosed with thyroid cancer.
Despite that illness, the service considered her fit to deploy, and the linguist deployed on her fifth combat tour in November of 2018; when she was sent to Syria where she was killed in action on January 16, 2019. A wife, and mother of two, she leaves behind her husband, who is retired from the US Military and two sons, one three years old, the other eighteen months old. During her Memorial service, Senior Chief Kent was posthumously promoted to senior chief petty officer, awarded the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart, the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, the Meritorious Service Medal and a Combat Action Ribbon. There is a growing grass roots effort to get a US Navy Warship named after her.
San Diego, California native, Lt. Jennifer M. Moreno, an Army nurse, was assigned to a U.S. Army Ranger unit. On the evening of Oct. 5, 2013, she was killed in action during a patrol that would take the lives of two additional Rangers, according to the San Diego Union Tribune. She received conflicting orders to both help a soldier wounded and trapped at an Afghanistan bomb-making compound and hold her position to avoid setting off another bomb in the mine-ridden area; the Army Times later reported this in 2014. Choosing to help her fallen comrades, Moreno moved forward, but detonated a mine that took her life. Capt. Amanda King, commander of Moreno’s Cultural Support Team, (the same type of Unit her sister in arms, Ashley White served in) later wrote in a eulogy: “None of us would have done what you did, running into hell to save your wounded brothers, knowing full well you probably wouldn’t make it back.” Lieutenant Moreno was posthumously promoted to captain and awarded the Combat Action Badge, Bronze Star Medal, and the Purple Heart. Many Veteran’s feel she should have been nominated for either the Medal of Honor or the Distinguished Service Cross.
Odds are that none of these six women never met, and several of them were not even born when US Coast Guard Pilot Colleen Cain gave her life in her effort to save others. However, they have one common bond; they all died serving our nation. Some were officers, some were enlisted Troops. A couple of these women were married, or engaged to be married, a few of them had children. They were all Americans dedicated to serving others and their nation. None of them will ever be able to use the title “Veteran”.
Because they all died while serving our nation on Active Duty. More importantly, they never will be able to watch their husbands grow old, attend barbecues and Little League games with their children, or have a grandchild nap in their lap. Only those that have served our nation in uniform can fully understand the commitment to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s “Four Freedoms” these young women made. What are you and your family doing on Memorial Day?
The Valley Patriot wishes the American Legion a Happy 100th Birthday!
We invite all Veterans to protect their rights and benefits and help Brother and Sister Veterans, by joining the American Legion. Armed Forces Day May 18th honors those currently serving, Veterans Day November 11th honors those who served.
John Cuddy served in the US Navy’s Construction Battalions (also known as the Seabees) after retiring from the Navy; he earned a BA in History and an MA in Economics from the University of Massachusetts on the Lowell Campus. He has been employed in Logistics at FedEx for the last 22 years. If you know a World War II Veteran who would like their story told, please email him at John.Cuddy@Yahoo.com. ◊