C/6-101 DUSTOFF Crewmembers Lost in Tragic Accident

Chief Warrant Officer 3 Zachary G. Esparza a proud member of the Army’s 101st Airborne Division, passed away doing what he loved on March 29, 2023.

The son of Misty Esparza-Perham and Miguel Esparza, Zac grew up in St. Louis, Missouri. He was born on September 26, 1986, and graduated from Bayless High School in 2005. After high school, he attended Southeast Missouri State and became a proud member of the Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity.

At the age of 24, CW3 Zac Esparza enlisted in the Army from Jackson, Missouri in 2010. As part of his service, Zac completed Basic Training at Fort Jackson, SC, and Advanced Individual Training at Fort Gordon, GA. Upon graduation, he served in Okinawa, Japan from 2011-2012 and was deployed to Afghanistan in support of the International Security Assistance from 2013-2014. He attended the Aviation Warrant Officer Basic Course in 2015 and graduated as a UH-60M pilot at Fort Rucker, AL. In 2017, he served as an Aeromedical Evacuation Pilot with the 25th Combat Aviation Brigade on Wheeler Army Airfield, Hawaii. He then served as a Pilot-in-Command in 2020 with Task Force Sinai in Egypt. In 2021, he was assigned to the 101st Combat Aviation Brigade and has served as an Instructor Pilot since October 2021.

CW3 Esparza’s awards and decorations include the Army Commendation Medal, Army Achievement Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbon, Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon, NATO Medal, and the Army Aviator Badge. He was posthumously promoted to CW3 and awarded the Meritorious Service Medal.

Zac loved Army life and all the opportunities it allowed him to have. He traveled to many countries around the world and created many meaningful friendships along the way. In 2021, Zac received his Private Pilot License and became the proud owner of a Cessna 172, and named his plane Pigwidgeon because he was a Harry Potter fan. He loved sharing his passion for aviation by flying his family and friends to destinations across the country. Zac was a St. Louis guy through and through, his perfect date would be eating Imo’s Pizza at a St. Louis Cardinals ballgame. Zac lived his life to the fullest while defending his country and traveling the world. He will be greatly missed by many.

Zachary is predeceased by his maternal grandparents Zona and Robert Overstreet, and his paternal grandfather Eleazar Esparza. He is survived by his parents Misty Esparza-Perham, Jace Perham, Miguel Esparza and Julia Esparza; siblings Zona Ho (twin), David Ho (BIL), Michael Esparza, Brittany Frazier (SIL), Carmen Esparza, Matilda Parmentier (SIL), Rebecca Esparza, Sarah Esparza, and Sophia Esparza; nieces and nephews Cameron Ho, Bryson Ho, Oliver Esparza, and Yemaya Fergusson-Esparza; and many other family members and friends.

Joshua Caleb Gore

With heavy hearts, we announce the death of Joshua Caleb Gore of Morehead City, North Carolina, born in Lynchburg, Virginia, who passed away on March 29, 2023 at the age of 25. Family and friends are welcome to leave their condolences on this memorial page and share them with the family.

He was predeceased by : his grandparents, Dale Tyler, Rudy Johnson, Mike Sholar, Dallas and Judy Gore.

He is survived by : his wife Haleigh Smith Gore; his mother Joie McLeod (Mac) of Morehead City, NC; his siblings, Seth Gore, Allen McLeod of Dunn, NC, Matthew Frost of Havelock, NC, Maurice Gonzales of Havelock, NC and Angel Price of Rockhill, SC; and his grandmothers, Rhonda Tyler of Morehead City, Carol Johnson of Dunn, NC and Cathy Sholar of Wallace, NC..

Staff Sergeant Taylor J. Mitchell, age 30, tragically passed away Wednesday, March 29, 2023. Celebration of Life and full military honors will be held at 4 p.m. on Tuesday, April 18, 2023, at First Baptist Church, 499 Commerce St, Clarksville, TN.
Born in Alabama, on 14 April 1992, SSG Mitchell enlisted in the Army from Mountain Brook, Alabama, in 2014. Following Basic Training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, he was assigned to the 2nd Calvary Regiment, Vilseck, Germany, as a health care specialist. In 2017, he attended Flight Paramedic School at Fort Sam Houston, Texas. He subsequently served as a Flight Paramedic Noncommissioned Officer in the Ist Combat Aviation Brigade at Fort Riley, Kansas. He served as a Flight Paramedic for the Combat Aviation Brigade, 101st Airborne Division from November of 2020.
SSG Mitchell is survived by his wife, Hayli Jo; his parents, Jay and Darlene; brothers, Garrett, BJ, and Joseph, grandmother Patricia Scoper, and six nieces and nephews.

Sergeant Emilie Marie Eve Bolanos, age 23, originally from the Philippines, tragically passed away Wednesday, March 29, 2023.

Celebration of Life will be held 11 a.m. Tuesday, April 18, 2023, at Mosaic church. Full US Military Honors will follow at Kentucky Veterans Cemetery West. The family will receive friends for visitation from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Monday, April 17, 2023, at McReynolds-Nave & Larson Funeral Home.

Emilie was born on 20 December 1999 in The Philippines to Emilio and Eva Marie. SGT Bolanos enlisted in the Army from Austin, Texas, in 2019. She attended Basic Training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, and Advanced Individual Training at Fort Eustis, Virginia. She served as a UH-60 Helicopter Repairer and UH-60 Air Crewmember for the Combat Aviation Brigade, 101st Airborne Division from March of 2020.In 2020, she served for 9 months in Germany in support of ATLANTIC RESOLVE. She graduated from the Basic Leader Course in 2022.

SGT Bolanos’ awards and decorations include the Army Achievement Medal, Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Armed Forces Service Medal, Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbon, Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon, and the Basic Aviation Badge. She was posthumously promoted to SGT and awarded the Meritorious Service Medal.

SGT Bolanos is survived by her father, Emilio; her mother, Eva Marie; and her brothers Lester, Jobert, and Michael.

Sergeant Issac J. Gayo

Gayo was killed March 29 during what the Army called a routine training operation.

He was born in the Philippines and enlisted in the Army from Los Angeles in 2019. He attended basic training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, and then took advanced individual training at Fort Eustis, Virginia, according to the Army.

His awards and decorations include the U.S. Army Achievement Medal, Army Good Conduct Medal and the Overseas Service Ribbon. He had been studying to get into flight school, and learned about a week before the accident that he got in.

David Solinas Jr.

We are sad to announce that on March 29, 2023, David Solinas Jr. (Oradell, New Jersey) passed away. Leave a sympathy message to the family on the memorial page of David Solinas Jr. to pay them a last tribute. He was loved and cherished by many people including : his parents, David Solinas and Ellen Solinas; his brothers, Stephen, Brendan and Aidan Solinas; his grandmothers, Hannah Philpott and Mary Lou Solinas; and his pet Scout

Warrant Officer 1 Aaron Healy of Cape Coral, Florida leaves behind his parents, Vicki and Michael, brothers Shaun and Brandon and his wife and daughters, Sierra, Blakelyn, 12, and Dakota, 10.

Healy was a dedicated father who loved to spend time with his wife and daughters. They spent most weekends on some sort of family activity, his parents said.

Healy’s career in the military came as something of a surprise to his parents, but they said he loved it. Without telling them, Healy enlisted in the army to become a mechanic after his Florida Institute of Technology scholarship was pulled because too many of them had been given out.

He also didn’t tell them about Sierra at first.. According to his mother, he and Sierra, who was his high school classmate, began corresponding via Facebook Messenger. But he didn’t breathe a word to his family – until he came home during leave. He had been deployed for the first time to Afghanistan, and was stationed in Kandahar. 

When they went to the airport to pick him up, he told them there was someone he wanted them to meet, and walked them over to Sierra, who was sitting nearby.

“That’s when we found out,” said Vicki, laughing at the memory.

The Healy family hopes to have Aaron interred in Arlington Cemetery. Part of what makes this so tough, Vicki said, is that Aaron was so young. He and Sierra never even discussed their deaths, let alone what they wanted done with their remains.

Chief Warrant Officer 2 Rusten Radford Smith was born August 7, 1990 in Jacksonville, FL and was raised in St. James, MO. He graduated from John F. Hodge High School in St. James, MO in 2009.  Rusten and Caroline were united in marriage on February 26, 2016 while stationed at Fort Hood, TX.  Rusten passed away in a helicopter accident near Fort Campbell, KY on March 29, 2023.

Rusten was a loving, caring husband and father, who enjoyed sharing his love for adventure and the outdoors with his wife and children through fishing and hunting,  He and Pa (his Grandpa Harold) spent numerous seasons in the woods searching for the trophy buck or the turkey of the century. 

Rusten joined the United States Army in 2012, and he served our nation proudly as a Blackhawk Pilot in the famed 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) with C. Company, 6th Battalion, 101st Combat Aviation Brigade (Wings of Destiny). Rusten had multiple deployments including two combat tours to Afghanistan and Europe for Atlantic Resolve.

Rusten’s awards and decorations include: Meritorious Service Medal, pending, posthumous; Air Medal w/combat distinguishing device “C”; Army Achievement Medal, 4; Army Good Conduct Medal; National Defense Service Medal; Afghanistan Campaign Medal w/Bronze Service Star, 2; Global War on Terrorism Service Medal; Humanitarian Service Medal; Noncommissioned Officers Professional Development Ribbon; Army Service Ribbon; Overseas Service Ribbon, 2; NATO Medal, 2: Basic Army Aviator Badge; Parachutist Badge, Basic; Air Assault Badge; Driver and Mechanic Badge-Bar, Mechanic (for automotive or allied vehicles); Overseas Service Bar, 2.

Rusten is survived by his wife, Caroline; three children: step son, Connor; daughters: Luna and Lily of Clarksville, TN; his parents, Rad and Brenda Smith of St. James, MO; his sister, Lena and husband, Monty Turner of St. James, MO; grandparents, Harold and Bonnie Hoffmeister of St. James, MO; Aunt Deb Hoffmeister and Uncle Paul Viets of Springfield, MO; Uncle Bob and Aunt Lisa Hoffmeister of St. James, MO; and Aunt Audrey and Uncle Rick Morris of Waynesville, MO; cousins: Jake (Cassie) Morris of Springfield, MO and Casey (Josh) Bladdick of St. Robert, MO; and numerous other aunts, uncles, and cousins.

He was preceded in death by his grandparents, Richard and Trevia (Dick and Sam) Smith and Aunt Charlene (Kay) Jones.  Rusten was only 32 years old when he died, but he accomplished more in his short time on earth than most people will achieve in a lifetime.  He was a dedicated family man, a loyal friend, a dependable battle buddy, and simply an outstanding human being. Rusten loved life, his family and friends, his country, and he will be greatly missed by all who knew him. 

There is a hole now in the Healy family, one that won’t soon be mended.

U.S. Army Warrant Officer 1 Aaron Healy, 32, of Cape Coral was one of nine soldiers killed Wednesday night in a Black Hawk training exercise.

They died during a routine training mission when two HH-60 Black Hawk helicopters crashed over Kentucky, according to military officials. One helicopter was carrying five soldiers and the other carried four. Healy, an Ida Baker High School graduate, leaves behind his parents, Vicki and Michael, brothers Shaun and Brandon and his wife and daughters, Sierra, Blakelyn, 12, and Dakota, 10.

His father Michael answered the door Saturday with red-rimmed eyes, tears slowly leaking the whole time he spoke about his son. His mother Vicki loved telling stories about Aaron, but every once in a while, she stopped, overcome with grief, when something –– a word in the past tense, a question about the morning she learned he had died –– reminded her that he was gone.

Slowly, they are working their way through their grief.

Images below are from the memorial service held in honor of the nine fallen DUSTOFF Crewmembers. John McMahan presents 9 paver brick certificates to MAJ Garrett Kuipers from The DUSTOFF Association that will be planted in the memorial gardens at the AMEDD Museum in San Antonio. MAJ Kuipers will present the certificates to each of the 9 Families affected by this tragedy.


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