Published Friday, June 18, 2010 | 12:49 p.m.
Updated Friday, June 18, 2010 | 2 p.m.
Beyond the Sun
Family and friends of two Nellis Air Force Base airmen killed in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan gathered in Las Vegas today to remember the fallen airmen.
1st Lt. Joel Gentz and Staff Sgt. David Smith were among four killed and three wounded in the crash June 9 during a deployment in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. They were responsible for casualty evacuation during their mission.
The two were among five Nellis airmen in an HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter when it crashed in southeastern Afghanistan. Two airmen from Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona also were killed. Three Nellis airmen were injured.
The airmen were assigned to the 563rd Rescue Group, a separate unit of the 23rd Wing. The cause of the crash is under investigation.
Loved ones gathered at the U.S. Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron Thunderbirds Hangar to pay tribute. The ceremony began with a slideshow of the two airmen, followed by remarks from commanders and a scripture reading from a chaplain, Capt. David Horton.
Gentz, 25, served as a combat rescue officer in the 58th Rescue Squadron as the weapons and tactics flight commander. He was on his first deployment and had more than 50 hours of combat time.
He led a team of nine men in Kandahar, Afghanistan, flew 84 combat sorties and saved 39 lives. Gentz, a Grass Lake, Mich., native, is survived by his wife Kathryn and his parents, Judith and Steven Gentz.
Smith, 26, was a helicopter flight engineer instructor assigned to the 66th Rescue Squadron. He had seen several deployments in support of missions in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Smith is a native of Eight Mile, Ala., and is survived by his mother, Mildred Hardee, his brothers, Randy Dunn and Todd Smith, and his sisters, Jamie Watson and Tracy Tapia. He is also survived by his fiancee, Meggan Eckersly.
Memorial donations can be made to That Others May Live Foundation, a nonprofit organization that provides education assistance to children who have lost Air Force guardians or parents in a recovery mission. Instructions for donations can be found at thatothersmaylive.org.