Hoist a Glass and Say a Small Prayer For The Lost

Greetings Me Droogs N Droogettes!

A sad day in Memoria:

December 12, 1985 – Arrow Air Flight 1285, a McDonnell Douglas DC-8, crashes after takeoff in Gander, Newfoundland, killing all 256 people on board, including 236 members of the United States Army’s 101st Airborne Division.”

38 years ago, a planeload of Troops of 3rd Batt, 502nd Airborne of my alma mater the 101st Airborne Division were on their way home from having served six months in the Sinai Desert under the Multinational Force and Observers task force… the Orange Beret mission…

In total, the DotMil had 248 pax on board, and 8 crew.

All perished.

They were probably excited to be almost home for Christmas. I know I would have been. Some were going home to Family, some friends, all would have been happy AF being that the MFO tour purely sucks.

Unfortunately they never made it…

The Gander memorial – Task Force 3-502nd Memorial Park – was built and sat on the peninsula between the post’s Screaming Eagle and Normandy boulevards. They moved it in 2019… the memorial, started by a 15 year old girl from Canada, Janice Nikkel, an Oakville, Ontario native had an idea to plant a tree for each fallen troop.

“I wrote a letter to our big Toronto Star newspaper and said I would like to donate my babysitting money to [buy trees] to plant as a living memorial to these Soldiers who died in our country,” she said. “I thought ‘I’m 15 years old, what can I do’. But it was something.”

The idea took off, and that ‘something’ a year later turned into a pretty significant memorial.  256 Canadian Maple Trees – 8 for every crew member that perished, and 248 to represent every Soldier from “The Deuce” that died. Each tree had a brick with the name of the person who died carved into it was set in the memorial.

Unfortunately, as the base has grown exponentially, and that area became ‘prime real estate’ so to speak they had to move the memorial, and start over. The trees were ‘harvested’ (i.e. cut down) and a new set planted at the new location.

So, take a moment and say a lil prayer for them.
Those and others who won’t be home for Christmas.
Now or Ever.

More Later
Big Country

16 thoughts on “Hoist a Glass and Say a Small Prayer For The Lost”

  1. Outside the town of Ballarat, Victoria, Australia is the Avenue of Honor. A similar idea, a tree planted with a plaque as a memorial to each soldier from the district killed in the first world war. It goes for 16.6 miles, with trees lining both side of the road. At the time of the first world war, Australia had a population of about 5 million.

    It’s a haunting memorial, if you think about it. Pray the dead can rest in peace.

  2. A few days after the 12th I was tasked to take some senior officers up to Gander. It seemed that everyone, along with augmentation, from The Armed Forces Institute of Pathology was already mobilized and on site. The crash site had been roped off into meter squares and specialists were on hands and knees combing through each square meter to insure that every soldier and crew member came home. On the day of departure, a number (probably 20 or more) of unmarked, sealed, approximately 18″ X 18″ square cardboard boxes were brought to my aircraft before the passenger’s luggage arrived. We flew to Dover AFB where we off loaded that precious cargo. I angst, to this day, that my crew and I showed proper respect. regards, Alemaster

  3. This is a sad piece of history that I was unaware of.

    To survive a deployment only to die on fight home is a big suck(to say the least!) and I envision a devastating blow to family and friends,may the next chapter in life bring these soldiers and air crew peace.

    I am grateful that though had friends in Libya/Afghan and Iraq all came home in one piece for most part.

    On friend was a bit “mentally cooked” for awhile and lived off and on me coach for a couple of years,doing well now and we attended a concert together about a year back,good time.

    I realize many have lost family /friends and while I am saddened by that am still grateful those i know made it,wish all did.

  4. i remember well.. most of the 101st were pulling funeral details for them guys in the 5 Oh Deuce. i was in a Blanchfield Army Community Hospital orthopedic ward bed recovering from major knee surgery at the time- before they did replacements and such.. man that was a LONG time ago. soon after that the space shuttle exploded on live teevee- remember that too while i was laid up..


    1. Rakkasan Brother… may they find Peace and a lot of booze and broads in the afterlife…

  5. This hits me hard. I was stationed at Ft. Carson at the time. The schoolteacher in the Space Shuttle got all the media attention while the brave men were ignored. I’ve never forgotten that.

  6. Never forget…Say their names…Be their witness.

    “… a number (probably 20 or more) of unmarked, sealed, approximately 18″ X 18″ square cardboard boxes… that precious cargo.” If that paragraph didn’t grab you in the feelz…you don’t have any feelz.

    RIP, Warriors

  7. The only redeeming factor of that MFO tour was getting off the South camp base and into Sharm to get drunk at the Camel Bar on that shitty Stella beer that they brewed in Egypt. I’m still convinced the secret ingredient was formaldehyde. I was JAFO with the 1/502 First Strike in ’99-’00. On New Years the engineers blew up the beach with about 100 gallons of diesel and det cord and we were all standing so close we singed our eyebrows off. That was memorable.

  8. My FIL got bumped from that flight to complete a last minute task that had to be done. He’s never forgotten everyone he lost that day, and always questions why he was spared.

  9. I remember the dad’s of several friends getting sent to Gander after that. One was an MP and the other was part of a SARS team.

    When they started the memorial our school (on a Canadian base) encouraged us to gather bottles for it.

    Years later when I was taking university classes on air crash investigation my prof had been the Canadian lead on that investigation. He talked a lot about numerous crashes he investigated,but that one upset him enough he didn’t discuss it much.

  10. Scanned some photos of Pappy in garrison hat with Special Forces logo as a young soldier.
    He was 101st in the sixties and saved first parachute as ceiling decoration.
    One thing I always admired and emulate is how he loved to recon and observe everything with hyper situational awareness.
    Warriors are never forgotten.

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