Moody community mourns loss of Airmen -, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Moody community mourns loss of Airmen

March 25, 2003

Lowndes County - Lt. Col. Lee Depalo remembers his fellow airmen killed Sunday on a rescue mission in Afghanistan. "They were all brave, wonderful airmen," said Depalo. "The best squadron members you could ask for."

Those killed were Lt. Col. John Stein, 1st Lt. Tamara Archulata, Staff Sgt. John Teal, Staff Sgt. Jason Hicks, Master Sgt. Michael Maltz, and Senior Airman Jason Plite. Four of those were under Depalo's leadership in the 41st Rescue Squadron. "They were brave and courageous individuals doing what they were ordered, and saving lives is what our duty is all about," said Depalo.

Even though he is half a world away, Depalo spoke with the crew often. He last talked with his friend and the helicopter's pilot John Stein two days before the crash. "He was a wonderful father, pilot, friend, and a very courageous leader," said Depalo.

Depalo has spoken or visited with the families of all the airmen since the crash. "They're devastated, and I can't imagine being in their shoes right now," said Depalo.

Although the family within the squadron has been broken, their mission will continue stronger than ever. "All the airmen are mourning, but they're stepping up to fill the loss," said Depalo. "Many have even volunteered to go over and fill the void the airmen left in our mission in Afghanistan."

The bodies of the victims have been prepared and are on their way back to their families.

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