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Memorial is planned for aviators

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By Brenda Sexton-The Courier-Herald

At the base of Mount Peak's south side sits a makeshift memorial honoring three Fort Lewis Army aviators who died when their helicopter crashed into the Enumclaw landmark.

There along a worn fence sits a semi-circle of bricks with three American flags, flowers and a wood sign that pays tribute to the UH-60 Blackhawk crew that went down Dec. 21, 2006, during a night training exercise in preparation for deployment to Iraq.

That tribute will stay, but another is being erected across town at the city of Enumclaw's Veterans Memorial Park.

Chief Warrant Officer James Whitehead, Chief Warrant Officer Patrick Paige and Sgt. Thomas Clarkston's lives and service will be celebrated at a dedication ceremony July 4 in conjunction with the city's Stars and Stripes Celebration.

Enumclaw's Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1949 has been working diligently to honor the airmen of “D” Troop 4th Squadron, 6th Cavalry Regiment 2nd Infantry Division.

The VFW would like the memorial to be a constant reminder to community members of the military personnel who serve to keep the United States a free country.

“We want it to bring an awareness to the community of the people who have served this country and the commitment they've made to bring freedom to this country,” said George Rossman who is in heading the effort for the VFW. He presented a rendering of the memorial to the city council at its regular meeting Monday night.

The VFW is working with the city of Enumclaw, Marine Corps League, Enumclaw Garden Club and other local organizations.

The memorial will be a 24-inch by 36-inch plaque on Wilkeson sandstone similar to the Marine memorial at the park.

The VFW, a nonprofit entity, is undertaking a fundraising effort to whittle away at the $8,000 budget. They've already received a $2,000 grant from the Department of Veterans Affairs Emblem Fund. Donations may be sent to post at VFW Post 1949, Copter Memorial Fund, P.O. Box 14, Enumclaw, 98022.

VFW Commander Al Zarb has been in contact with the airmen's families. All three were married with young families.

Whitehead, a Chief Warrant Officer Two, was born in Virginia. He served in the United States Marine Corps for 10 years before joining the Army in 2002. In February 2004, he was deployed to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and received an Air Medal for his service. He and his family moved to Fort Lewis in 2005.

Paige, also a Chief Warrant Officer Two, was born in Alabama. He joined the Army in 1995 and earned numerous awards and honors before graduating from Flight School in 2003. He was assigned to Camp Humphrey, Korea, where he was a UH-60 Pilot in Command. While there, he was awarded an Army Commendation Medal and an Army Achievement Medal.

He and his family moved to Fort Lewis in 2005.

Sgt. Clarkston was born in Washington, D.C., and graduated from a high school in Indiana. He was married and had a young son. He joined the Army in 2002. In April 2003, he deployed to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. During his 15-month deployment, he was awarded the Army Commendation Medal and an Air Medal for service. He and his family moved to Fort Lewis in 2005.

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