Last May 19, a United States Navy HH-60H Seahawk helicopter crashed into the Pacific while on a search-and-rescue training exercise southwest of San Diego. All five crew on board, who were getting ready for war-zone deployment aboard the USS Nimitz in the summer, perished.
Among them was 25-year old Bend, Oregon native Petty Officer 2nd class Aaron Lee Clingman, a search-and-rescue swimmer for the US Navy. Just last Friday, a memorial service was held for him at the Deschutes County Fairgrounds. Clingman, who graduated from Marshall High School in 2004, left behind a daughter, Ayden, who will turn 1 on the Fourth of July. His wife, Ashely, is pregnant with their second child.
Early this month, on June 9, one of the pilots of the ill-fated helicopter, Navy Lt. Allison Oubre, was laid to rest in Forest Lawn Cemetery. The 27-year old pilot is a native of Slidell, Louisiana, who finished high school at the Pope John Paul II High School and attended Vanderbilt University as an ROTC scholar before joining the Navy. She is married to fellow Navy Lt. Colter Menke early this year and they were slated to have a formal wedding ceremony last June 20.
On May 29, the United States Navy held its own memorial service for Clingman, Oubre, and the three other crew who perished in the crash: pilot Lt. Cmdr. Eric Purvis, Chief Petty Officer Samuel “Grant” Kerslake, and Petty Officer 2nd Class Sean Ward. We have mentioned time and again how the Navy considers one of its own as family, and they too mourned the loss of their comrades. Navy Cmdr. Wes McCall was at the memorial service, presenting each grieving family with a folded flag. There were more than a thousand mourners aboard the aircraft carrier Midway that day.
In order to ensure the orphaned family’s welfare – Purvis and Kerslake, in addition to Clingman, had 6 children between them who were all no more than 6 years old – a memorial fund has been set up in their memory. Donations through checks or money order may be sent to the HS-6 Memorial fund in San Diego.