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September 20, 2014

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Nellis airman remembered for dedication at memorial

Capt. David A. Wisniewski died earlier this month after Afghanistan helicopter crash

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Justin M. Bowen

The Nellis Air Force Base Honor Guard attends the memorial service Thursday at Nellis Air Force Base for Capt. David Wisniewski, who died July 2, 2010, from injuries suffered during a helicopter crash in Afghanistan.

Nellis Memorial for Capt. David Wisniewski

The Nellis Air Force Base Honor Guard attends the memorial service Thursday at Nellis Air Force Base for Capt. David Wisniewski, who died July 2, 2010, from injuries suffered during a helicopter crash in Afghanistan. Launch slideshow »

Capt. David A. Wisniewski had just spent three days in February traveling to Afghanistan through several time zones with little sleep, and as he was speaking to Lt. Col. Daniel Duffy, he appeared antsy and kept looking over his shoulder.

"OK, let's go. I'm ready," Duffy said Wisniewski told him.

And that's how Duffy remembers Wisniewski — a selfless and dedicated officer who saved hundreds of lives around the world as an evaluator pilot with the 66th Rescue Squadron.

Wisniewski, 31, of Moville, Iowa, died July 2 from injuries suffered in a helicopter crash June 9 in Afghanistan. Family, friends and colleagues gathered at Nellis Air Force Base on Thursday morning to remember him during a memorial service.

"Today, over hundreds of families are touched by David Wisniewski as a memory of him lives on with each of these families," said Duffy, referring to the lives Wisniewski saved during missions.

Wisniewski's friend, Maj. Paul Sheetz, said his colleague's best quality was his dedication — dedication to his loved ones and his job. The two completed Weapons School at Nellis together, where they would often swap stories.

"His stories weren't there to brag or to say 'hey, look at the great accomplishments I did,'" he said. "They were there to help teach us and to help us all learn from his lessons and make sure that we didn't make any mistakes."

Wisniewski graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 2002, where he majored in civil engineering. During his time with the 33rd Rescue Squadron starting in 2004, he was stationed at Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, Japan, and was deployed to the Philippines and Afghanistan.

He transferred to Nellis in June 2008, and after completing Weapons School, he was promoted to chief of weapons and tactics and evaluator pilot with the 66th Rescue Squadron. He served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Click to enlarge photo

Craig Wisniewski speaks Thursday during a memorial at Nellis Air Force Base for his brother, Capt. David Wisniewski, who died July 2, 2010, from injuries suffered during a helicopter crash in Afghanistan.

Craig Wisniewski said his brother always knew he wanted to become a pilot — so much so that he only applied to the Air Force Academy after graduating from high school.

Craig Wisniewski, who was three years older than David, recalled an incident from their teenage years that he said highlighted his brother's honor. Oil began spilling out of their parents' new Chevrolet Lumina after the brothers took it to do jumps at a gravel pit.

Plagued by guilt, David confessed the whole story to his father.

That honor and motivation led Wisniewski to his Air Force career, Craig Wisniewski said.

"He loved his job, the people he worked with and believed in the motto 'these things we do so others may live,'" Craig Wisniewski said.

Two Nellis airmen died last month as a result of injuries suffered in the same helicopter crash. They were 1st Lt. Joel C. Gentz, 25, of Grass Lake, Mich., and Staff Sgt. David C. Smith, 26, of Eight Mile, Ala. Two airmen from Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona also were killed.

Wisniewski is survived by his parents, Chet and Beverly, brothers Craig and Matt, and his fiancee Melissa Sandberg.

He will be buried Aug. 23 at Arlington National Cemetery.

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