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Airmen dedicate memorial to 1988 C-130 crew

1/16/2009 -- A lone C-130 Hercules propeller blade stands erect, chipped, worn and scratched, telling a silent story of an end to six lives on June 8, 1988.
The blade -- obtained from the C-130 Hercules that crashed -- is a poignant symbol of the tragic loss of life that occurred that summer day.
The memory of Maj. Andy Zwaan, an 189th Airlift Wing instructor pilot; 2nd Lt. Mark Brandt, a Missouri Air National Guard student pilot; 2nd Lt. Thomas Leece, a Reserve student pilot from Minnesota; Master Sgt. Ed Smith Jr., a 189th AW instructor flight engineer; Master Sgt. Danny Holland, a 189th AW instructor loadmaster; and Staff Sgt. David Bingham, a Guard student flight engineer; will live on after a memorial in their honor was unveiled Jan. 13 at the Jacksonville Museum of Military History.
The crew of Demon 51, the call sign of the C-130 on a training mission to Greenville, Miss., perished when the aircraft crashed near the Greenville airport after practicing touch-and-go landings.
"Today, the important thing to remember is this crew was doing what their country asked them to do. It doesn't matter that it was a training sortie and not a combat sortie. They were doing what they were asked to do; volunteers serving their country with pride and professionalism," said Col. Jim Summers, the 189th AW commander.
About 150 family members, friends and current and former military members were on hand to witness the dedication. Tears flowed openly at the ceremony: a testament to how well-loved the crew members were.
Other military members spoke about the deceased crew members they knew.
Lt. Col. Andrew Halter of the Missouri Air National Guard was commissioned with Lieutenant Brandt.
As enlisted members, the pair carried tool boxes before being commissioned as officers. Lieutenant Brandt headed off to an aviation career while Lieutenant Halter stayed on the ground. Today, he's the deputy commander of the 139th Maintenance Group.
Chief Master Sgt. Kevin O'Gorman, 181st Airlift Squadron flight engineer superintendent, spoke about Sergeant Bingham.
"David is the only 136th Airlift Wing aviator we've lost since converting from KC-97s back in 1978," the chief said. "We'd like to thank the 189th Airlift Wing and the people of Arkansas for allowing David's memory to be preserved here."
Senior Master Sgt. Robert Bossong, a 154th Training Squadron instructor flight engineer, remembered the 189th Airlift Wing crew. He worked with Sergeants Holland and Smith in maintenance before they all moved to aviation careers. Later, Sergeant Bossong said he flew with Major Zwann and the two NCOs several times.
"They were all hard-working, dedicated instructors," he said. "They knew the challenges and the risks inherent in flying training."
Terri Mitchell, daughter of Sergeant Holland, brought 11 family members with her, including Sergeant Holland's sister. They were encouraged that the memories of their loved ones will be preserved for museum visitors to learn about.
On the 20th anniversary of the mishap, she said she was disappointed that something wasn't done then, but now she said, "I'm very happy."
With the memorial being only a few miles from Sergeant Holland's sister's home, she said she's sure to come back and visit it. "I think I will; very touching."