Memorial service today will honor airmen killed in C-17 crash

CRASH: Memorial on Monday will honor the four airmen who died.

July 31, 2010 

The Alaska Air National Guard is planning a memorial service on Monday for the four airmen who died last week in the crash of a military C-17 cargo jet.

The service will be the day after the conclusion of the popular, two-day air show at Elmendorf Air Force Base, which features performance aircraft and other military equipment. This year's show also included a display of flowers and pictures lined up under the wing of a C-17 honoring the four airmen.

The military struggled late in the week with the decision of whether to go on with the show after Wednesday's crash. Three of the men who died were members of the Alaska Air National Guard, while the fourth was assigned to an Elmendorf squadron.

Col. John McMullen, Elmendorf's 3rd Wing commander, said at a press conference Saturday morning that he and his staff discussed the question of continuing with the show at length before he decided to go ahead. "We are mourning the loss of four airmen, but we need to start moving forward into the healing process and press on and continue to do our jobs," he said.

"We discussed this with the families, and not only were the families OK with doing the air show, they were very supportive and said 'You have to do this air show.' "

McMullen also said at the press conference that the investigation into the crash is continuing, and it likely will take "at least 30 days before we (get) a good idea what actually happened to cause this airplane to go down."

Authorities said the aircraft crashed at Elmendorf about a minute after taking off during a practice run for the air show. The huge plane is commonly featured in shows, particularly its ability to take off and land in short distances.

On Saturday, the memorial display stood on the rain-dampened tarmac as a sign of remembrance and respect for the four airmen. Large posters with their photographs and bunches of flowers were spread out under the two massive jet engines of one wing of a C-17.

A guard stood near the posters.

On Friday, the military identified the four men killed in the crash as Maj. Michael Freyholtz, 34, and Maj. Aaron Malone, 36, both pilots assigned to the Alaska Air National Guard's 249th Airlift Squadron; Capt. Jeffrey Hill, 31, a pilot assigned to Elmendorf's 517th Airlift Squadron; and Senior Master Sgt. Thomas Cicardo, 47, a 249th Airlift Squadron loadmaster.

Monday's service is scheduled for 3 p.m. in Hangar 20 at Elmendorf Air Force Base. Bob Hall, an Elmendorf spokesman, said the service is open to base personnel and military families. It is not open to the general public, he said.

The military has also set up accounts at Alaska USA Federal Credit Union for the families of the four crew members.

The Arctic Thunder air show and open house will run through today. Officials have said more than 170,000 people are expected to attend over the two days.

Traffic into the show early in the day and at midday Saturday was causing massive lines. Vehicles on Boniface Parkway were lined up from the Boniface gate to DeBarr Road.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Today’s schedule

9 a.m.: Gates open

9:47 a.m.: Elmendorf Third Wing Aerial Show

10:07 a.m.: Parachute Demo

10:37 a.m. - 11:21 a.m.: Civilian Acts

11:31 a.m.: AV-8B Harrier Demo

11:46 a.m.: B-52 Fly-By

12:28 p.m.: Parachute Demo

12:58 p.m. - 1:16 p.m.: Civilian Acts

1:28 p.m.: Canadian Snowbirds

2:08 p.m.: Civilian act

2:26 p.m. Alaska Joint Forces Demo

3:13 p.m.: F-22 and C-17 Demo

3:45 p.m.: U.S. Navy Blue Angels

6 p.m.: Show closes

For any questions about the event, call

(907) 552-SHOW

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