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66th RQS remembers fallen Airmen 20 years later

Lt. Col. Joshua Shonkwiler, 66th Rescue Squadron (RQS) commander, admires a memorial built for fallen members of the 66th RQS August 29, 2018 on the Nevada Test and Training Range. Members of the 66th RQS, 58th RQS and the 823rd Maintenance Squadron gathered around the memorial to reflect and pay their respects to the men who paid the ultimate sacrifice. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Bailee A. Darbasie)

A memorial built for twelve fallen Airmen assigned to the 66th Rescue Squadron sits on the Nevada Test and Training Range. The memorial resembles two giant feet associated with their mascot, the Jolly Green Giant. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Bailee A. Darbasie)

An HH-60G Pavehawk assigned to the 66th Rescue Squadron (RQS) lands near a memorial built for twelve fallen Airmen August 29, 2018 on the Nevada Test and Training Range. Members of the 66th RQS, 58th RQS and the 823rd Maintenance Squadron gathered at the memorial to pay their respects to the fallen men for the 20th anniversary of their deaths. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Bailee A. Darbasie)

Chaplain (Capt.) David Jenkins, 99th Air Base Wing chaplain, leads members of the 66th Rescue Squadron (RQS) in prayer during a memorial ceremony August 29, 2018 on the Nevada Test and Training Range (NTTR). Members of the 66th RQS, 58th RQS and the 823rd Maintenance Squadron assembled at the NTTR to clean and restore the memorial. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Bailee A. Darbasie)

Members of the 66th Rescue Squadron (RQS), 58th Rescue Squadron and the 823rd Maintenance Squadron gather around a memorial August 29, 2018 on the Nevada Test and Training Range. The memorial is dedicated to 12 members of the 66th RQS who paid the ultimate sacrifice 20 years ago. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Bailee A. Darbasie)

Staff Sgt. Kenneth Geier, 66th Rescue Squadron HH-60G special missions aviator, removes trash and pulls weeds from inside of a memorial as part of a memorial cleanup effort August 29, 2018 on the Nevada Test and Training Range. Other efforts included picking weeds, collecting trash, painting and manicuring the site and surrounding area. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Bailee A. Darbasie)

Master Sgts. Brian Yorke, 9th Air Force HH-60G evaluator special missions aviator, and Reginald Sampson, 66th Rescue Squadron First Sergeant, use a rake to clear and shape the area surrounding a memorial August 29, 2018 on the Nevada Test and Training Range. Manicuring the surrounding area allowed the memorial to stand out to viewers. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Bailee A. Darbasie)

Tech. Sgt. Steve Prather, 66th Rescue Squadron HH-60G evaluator special missions aviator, places a fresh coat of paint across several rocks forming a memorial August 29, 2018 on the Nevada Test and Training Range. Re-painting the memorial helped it become more noticeable to the aircraft flying overhead. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Bailee A. Darbasie)

Lt. Col. Joshua Shonkwiler, 66th Rescue Squadron (RQS) commander, presents a 20th anniversary shadow box to members of the 66th RQS Sept. 7, 2018 at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada. The shadow box contains pieces of the crash belonging to the aircraft and crew involved. (Courtesy photo)

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Members of the 66th Rescue Squadron line up to honor their fallen brothers in a toast to Jolly 38 and Jolly 39 Sept. 7, 2018 at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada. The combat search and rescue community motto, “These things we do, that others may live,” is a reminder of the sacrifice a rescue member is willing to make to ensure someone who’s having their worst day, doesn’t have their last day. (Courtesy photo)

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A memorial built by the families of twelve fallen Airmen assigned to the 66th Rescue Squadron sits on the Nevada Test and Training Range (NTTR). August 29, 2018 on the Nevada Test and Training Range. The Airmen were lost when two HH-60G Pavehawk helicopters were involved in a midair collision over the NTTR during a routine night exercise 20 years ago. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Bailee A. Darbasie)

NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. --

The 66th Rescue Squadron paid their respects to their fallen brothers during a memorial marking the 20th anniversary of their deaths.

A total of 12 Airmen were lost when two HH-60G Pavehawk helicopters, call signs Jolly 38 and Jolly 39, assigned to the 66th RQS were involved in a midair collision over the Nevada Test and Training Range during a routine night exercise Sept. 3, 1998.

Current members of the 66th RQS, 58th RQS and the 823rd Maintenance Squadron assembled at the Nevada Test and Training Range to clean and restore a memorial built in honor of Jolly 38 and Jolly 39.

“It is truly humbling to stand on this site to remember those who have gone before us,” said Lt. Col. Joshua Shonkwiler, 66th RQS commander. “We oftentimes forget how dangerous our work can be; unfortunately, we have lost many brothers and sisters in combat and training while preparing for or executing the most noble of missions.”

The memorial resembles two giant feet associated with the rescue mascot, the Jolly Green Giant. The clean-up efforts included removing weeds, collecting trash, painting and manicuring the site and surrounding area.

“We spent several hours cleaning up the memorial site so that the Airmen flying over this area of the range can recognize the giant feet and the sacrifice made twenty years ago,” said Shonkwiler.

Aside from cleaning the memorial, Airmen joined in prayer and had a moment of silence for the men who paid the ultimate sacrifice that night. During their remembrance, Shonkwiler reminded those gathered at the memorial that what they do is not only dangerous, but extremely vital to the Air Force mission, the nation and coalition forces.

The 66th RQS conducted a ceremonial toast to all 12 Airmen and unveiled a 20th anniversary shadow box, containing pieces from the crash site belonging to the aircrew and aircraft. The shadow box will be permanently displayed in the squadron as another reminder of the legacy and sacrifice of Jolly 38 and Jolly 39.

The combat search and rescue community motto, “These things we do, that others may live,” is a reminder of the sacrifice a rescue member is willing to make to ensure someone who’s having their worst day, doesn’t have their last day.

“These men died doing what they loved, training and preparing so they could help those in need,” said Shonkwiler. “On this day, we remember their sacrifice.”

The names of the 66th RQS members who died that night are:

Jolly 38:
Capt. Gregg Lewis, pilot
Capt. Philip Miller, copilot
Staff Sgt. Kevin Brunelle, flight engineer
Staff Sgt. Kenneth “Kenny” Eaglin, flight engineer
Master Sgt. Matthew Sturtevant, aerial gunner
Senior Airman Jesse Stewart, pararescueman

Jolly 39:
Lt. Col. William “Hal” Milton, pilot
Capt. Karl Youngblood, copilot
Tech. Sgt. Jeffrey Armour, flight engineer
Senior Airmen Adam Stewart, flight engineer
Airmen First Class Justin Wotasik, pararescueman
2d Lt. Michael Harwell, mission essential personnel

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