Rucking for Remembrance
By Senior Airman Christopher S. Sparks, 48th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
/ Published January 08, 2021
ROYAL AIR FORCE LAKENHEATH, England -- For the second consecutive year, Airmen from the 48th Fighter Wing collaborated to raise funds and awareness for the seventh anniversary of the fallen 56th Rescue Squadron HH-60G Pave Hawk crew, Jolly-22 at Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England, Jan. 7, 2021.
The Liberty Team raised over $16,000 dollars for the families affected from the crash this year.
“It’s surreal,” said Tech. Sgt. Joshua Rogers, 372nd Training Squadron Detachment 16 production supervisor. “Last year it was just us three, but this year the support from Aviano Air Base, Italy, the U.K., and the U.S. is amazing.”
On Jan. 7, 2014, Capt. Sean Ruane, Capt. Christopher Stover, Tech. Sgt. Dale Mathews and Staff Sgt. Afton Ponce were killed when their helicopter crashed while performing a low-level training mission on the Norfolk coast.
“I was in the safety office when the crash happened,” said Barry Wall, Occupational Safety and former British Army infantryman. “I saw the impact and how the wing came together with one mission to honor those fallen Airmen. They did it with absolute passion and dignity. It’s one of the reasons why I’m proud to be a Liberty Airman.”
Wall and Rogers each rucked a total of 22 miles, carrying 56lbs each in honor of the fallen Airmen.
“They were Liberty Airmen,” Wall said. “They were from our wing and they deserve to be remembered. We do this so their memory lives on and their legacy is secured.”
The 56th RQS relocated to Aviano Air Base, Italy, in May 2018. Current members of the 56th RQS assembled their own ruck team to mirror the efforts of the Liberty Wing’s goal to raise awareness and fundraise.
“When the squadron moved from England to Italy in 2018, we needed to be sure that all of our traditions and memories carried over with us,” said Capt. James Gray, 56th RQS HH-60G Rescue Pilot. “Jolly 22 is a big part of that, so this effort is mainly to carry on the memory of those that have paid the ultimate sacrifice.”