A moment of silence please….

May 26, 2014

This year marks the 19th anniversary of the death of an American hero.

And because archives only go back so far, I am going to type all of this out in it’s entirety.

First, an example of the information we get from the government about accidents in the military, from the Fort Worth Star Telegram:

Jet pilot killed in training mission

(date not on newspaper clipping)

FORT BLISS-A military jet crashed during a training mission yesterday in rugged Texas terrain on the northern edge of Fort Bliss. The pilot was killed. Ground troops saw the twin-engine, single-seat A-10 Thunderbolt II, an anti-tank plane nicknamed the Warthog, disappear behind a hill just before the start of a joint Army-Air Force training exercise, Fort Bliss officials said. Cause of the crash was not immediately known. The pilot’s name was being with-held until relatives could be notified.

But the truth sometimes rears it’s ugly head:

Military pilot killed in NM crash saved others, witness says

Associated Press (via The Dallas Morning News)

FORT BLISS, Texas-An Air National Guard major may have saved about 100 lives by staying with his plane instead of ejecting before it crashed last week in New Mexico, a witness said.

Maj. Clarence Marsh III of Park city, Utah, died Friday morning in the crash of an A-10 Thunderbolt II.

“If he had ejected, he would have taken out the whole bank (of soldiers),” said Spec Paul Foster of Fort Sill, Okla., part of a Howitzer battery training at Fort Bliss’ McGregor Range when the crash occured about 30 miles north of El Paso.

Maj. Marsh’s plane, flying with an Air National Guard unit from Battle Creek, Mich., slammed into a sand dune Friday morning.

“He came in from the east and banked to the left,” Spec. Foster said. “He came in real low over our firing point. I mean real low. If he had been any lower, he would have taken out the tubes of our guns.”

When Spec. Foster first saw the plane, he said, it was nose down and heading straight at his group of 85 to 100 soldiers. At the last second, the pilot nudged the nose upward and skimmed over the soldiers’ heads, he said.

Spec. Foster said it looked as if the pilot was trying to make it to a nearby road for an emergency landing.

“The landing gear was down, and the canopy was still on. There was a 500-pound bomb underneath,” he said.

Maj. Marsh didn’t make it to the road.

“He hit the ground about 150 meters away from me, slid for about 50 meters, impacted into a sand dune, jumped a little, then the tail hit the sand dune, and the plane exploded,” Spec. Foster said.

The soldier said he’s thankful that Maj. Marsh stayed with the plane and was able to miss the soldiers.

“There would have been a whole lot of casualties if he had ejected,” he said.

The 41-year-old officer had served in the Air Force from 1977 to 1987 and had been a member of the Air National Guard since 1998. He also was a pilot for Delta Airlines.

Air Force investigators haven’t determined the cause of the crash. Maj. Marsh and Spec. Foster were taking part in a joint Army-Air Force exercise.

Spec. Foster said members of his unit, the C Battery, 3-18th Field Artillery, are taking up a collection to send flowers to Maj. Marsh’s widow, Anne, and their three children, ages 9, 6 and 4.

Maj. Marsh’s father, also named Clarence Marsh, said he was not surprised by his son’s decision to stay with the plane.

“When there is impending disaster, pilots are trained to try to avoid ground troops. He would have tried to do that,” said Mr. Marsh, a retired Army colonel reached at his home in Hampton, Va., by the El Paso Times.

I have included both articles for a reason. The first was the official statement put out by the military. The second led to the discharge of a career soldier.

We came out of the field 3 days after the crash. Like everyone else, Foster called home. His fiancee had heard nothing of the crash, so Foster decided to call the local press and tell them of the heroic sacrifice Maj. Marsh had made. The story made the local radio, and Foster left (got kicked out of) the Army soon afterwards. He had served in Germany during the Cold War and Iraq during Desert Storm. He had been phased out in 1992 and had come back in 2 years later. And he got shit canned for telling the story of a hero.

Well, I was there, and Maj. Marsh’s sacrifice saved my life. And today of all days I say thank you to him for his sacrifice, for his bravery.

I remember it in snap shots of time. I was sitting on a water jug leaning against the FDC (Fire Direction Control) vehicle, smoking a cig, enjoying a couple of minutes of down time. We had just refueled and reloaded. and were watching the A-10′s flying missions over our heads. We were to join the exercise again soon, and everyone was getting some sleep, bathing, or just relaxing.

I remember someone yelling “Look!” and I turned my head to the left and say the under side of the A-10 as it banked hard to the right literally right in front of me, its wingtip not more than a couple of meters above the ground.

I just sat there, eyes glued to the impending tragedy before me, as the plane barely leveled out before it’s tail hit a sand dune. The tail ripped off and the plane began to bounce nose to tail across the desert.

The FDC vehicle I was next to was the closest vehicle to the crash, and we had the medic stationed at our vehicle. I remember him jumping out of the vehicle, throwing one soldier a water jug and me a fire extinguisher as he ran towards the wreckage.

I followed him into the thick black smoke. It was awful. The fumes choked me, and then the anti-tank rounds from the Gatling gun began to burn off. I dove to the ground, waited a minute and then got up and ran after, well, just ran into the smoke.

I came out on the other side to find the medic trying to put a fire out around a burning cactis. I ran over with the fire extinguisher and began discharging it. Then I realized why the medic was working so hard to put this particular fire out: because the pilot’s body was burning there too.

The rest of the day is a blur. We secured the area, then loaded up our gear and moved down the road. Chaplins came out of nowhere, we were “debriefed”, and then we spent the next couple of days waiting for an opening so we could roll back in. End of exercise.

I would count myself blessed if this were the only death I had witnessed in the Army, but it wasn’t. And to think I never saw combat.

Clarence Marsh III is buried in Arlington National Cemetery:

Clarence Talmage Marsh III
Major, United States Air Force Virginia State Flag
BATTLE CREEK ANGB, Michigan (Air Force News Service) — A pilot assigned to this base was killed in the crash of an A-10 jet fighter in New Mexico, north of Fort Bliss, Texas, May 19, 1995.

The pilot, Major Clarence T. Marsh III, 41, of Park City, Utah, was an Air National Guard member of the 172nd Fighter Squadron, the base’s flying unit.

Marsh, a 1977 graduate of the United States Air Force Academy, was a command pilot assigned as an assistant flight commander for the squadron. He was employed full-time by Delta Airlines.

He is survived by his wife and three children at home, and parents in Hampton, Virginia.

The accident is under investigation by a board of Air Force officers.

Major Marsh was buried with full military honors in Arlington National Cemetery on 25 May 1995 after having been provided with a waiver for such burial.

The waiver was supported and proposed by Rep. Randy Cunningham (R-Calif.) and Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), John McCain (R-Ariz.), Dan Coats (R-Ind.) and Robert Bennett (R-Utah): Deceased was Clarence Marsh, active duty 1978-87, killed while training with Air National Guard. Major Clarence T. Marsh, U.S. Air National Guard, was flying as part of an Army exercise over White Sands Missile Range when his plane crashed. According to reports of the incident, he remained with the plane as it crashed to prevent it from crashing into the approximately 100 soldiers on the ground, thus saving their lives at the expense of his own.
NOTE: His father, Clarence T. Marsh, Jr., Colonel, United States Army, died in May 2001 and was also laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery.

He died so that fellow soldiers could live. Clarence Marsh III is a hero.

Please remember everyday that there are people out there risking their lives for the protection of our Republic. And soldiers die in training accidents far more frequently than most folks know. Don’t wait till Memorial or Veterans’ Day to say thank you to a soldier. Especially in this time of war, remember all those who serve so you can live in peace here at home.


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