CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The four N.C. Air National Airmen killed when their plane crashed while fighting a wildfire were remembered Tuesday as dedicated soldiers who gave their lives doing what they wanted to do: Helping people.
Lt. Col. Paul K. Mikeal, 42, of Mooresville; Maj. Joseph M. McCormick, 36, of Belmont; Maj. Ryan S. David, 35, of Boone, and Senior Master Sgt. Robert S. Cannon, 50, of Charlotte, all died July 1 when their C-130 crashed while fighting a wildfire in the South Dakota Black Hills. Two crewmen were injured.
Only the airmen’s families, invited guests and members of the 145th Airlift Wing were allowed to attend the private service at the unit’s base in Charlotte. There was limited media access.
State officials also attended, including Gov. Bev Perdue, who called the men heroes and said they would be missed by their families, friends and neighbors.
She recalled how it was just a week ago that the airmen said goodbye to their families before heading on the mission.
“These proud, proud airmen all knew – they really did know and understand as did their families – the risk and reward. Time after time after time, they strapped themselves in that seat for their next mission to protect people they didn’t know or would never know in places far from our homes,” she said.
The military was investigating the crash and didn’t know how long it would take to complete the probe.
The unit sent three C-130s and 36 men on the firefighting assignment but cut the mission short.
The N.C. Air National Guard’s 145th Air Wing was pressed into service due to wildfires that have burned thousands of acres and destroyed hundreds of homes in Colorado, Wyoming and South Dakota.
The pilots and crew in the crash had extensive experience.