U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. — “These things we do that others may live.”
For members of the rescue community these words are more than a simple saying. It’s an oath; that no matter the danger they are placed in, if there is an opportunity to save lives, they will never hesitate to carry out their rescue mission.
Nearly 10 years ago, Capt. David Wisniewski, a former 66th Rescue Squadron HH-60 Pave Hawk pilot, exited the U.S. Air Force Academy with the goal of joining the rescue community and upholding the oath that so many others cherish.
While attempting to save lives during a casualty evacuation operation in southeastern Afghanistan June 9, 2010, Wisniewski and the crew of “Pedro 66” crashed. Five of the seven members of the crew died including Wisniewski.
Members from the 34th Weapons Squadron and 66th Rescue Squadron at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., attended a ceremony here Sept. 28, remembering Wisniewski’s sacrifice and his devotion to duty.
“David was the best of what the Air Force had to offer,” said Maj. Russell Cook, 34th Weapon Squadron director of operations. “He was the ultimate combat leader and tactician.”
“This is all very special to us,” said Chet Wisniewski, the captain’s father. “We view the Air Force community as an extended family, and they opened their arms to us in our time of need. It’s nice to see everyone here dedicating a man that we feel had the potential to make a difference in the lives of others.”
During the ceremony, Airmen from Wisniewski’s former squadron and his parents joined academy cadets, as they unveiled a new memorial dedicated in his honor.
“It was an honor and privilege to be present for the dedication of the memorial to Captain Wisniewski,” said Lt. Col. Cedric Stark, 34th Weapons Squadron commander. “It’s always an honor to remember the heroes of ‘Pedro 66’ who gave their lives for the sake of saving others.”
David’s father also thanked the crowd before adding an American flag to the memorial. He explained that the flag was always in David’s pocket during his son’s countless evacuation missions.
“My son was a true patriot, who loved his country and his fellow Airmen,” Wisniewski said.
He later went on to say the flag was one of the items found in David’s pocket following the crash which would eventually claim his son’s life.
“I am honored to include in this memorial one of the things my son held most dear to his heart,” he added.
The memorial also consisted of several pictures and items chronicling his life and service in the Air Force. The memorial will become a permanent fixture at Cadet Squadron 26, Wisniewski’s cadet squadron during his time at the Academy.
More than 3,000 service members deployed to Southwest Asia have given their lives in defense of the region. Without rescue Airmen like Wisniewski and their devotion to service, it’s possible that number could have doubled.
“David died doing what he loved to do; save lives,” Wisniewski said. “He never thought twice about going into impossible situations so that others may live.”
Editor’s Note: Senior Airman Michael Charles, 99th Air Base Wing Public Affairs contributed to the writing of this article.