On April 17, 2017, while flying a standard training mission, a UH-60L Blackhawk, call-sign “Pat 06,” had a complete tail rotor failure and entered into an unrecoverable spin.
The aircraft impacted the earth with such force that it caused catastrophic damage. Due to the quick response of town residents and emergency dispatch officers, both pilots were pulled from the wreckage in a timely manner. Unfortunately, both pilots suffered considerable injuries and one, crew chief SPC Jeremy Tomlin, was killed instantly due to the extreme degree of impact.
Seeing SPC Tomlin’s exposed body during the extraction from the wreckage, a first responder named Peter “Rocky” Woodburn quickly retrieved an American flag from his residence. Arriving back at the scene of the incident, Rocky lay the flag across SPC Tomlin’s body as a sign of great respect. The flag still remains with his body.
Rocky later informed members of the 12th Aviation Battalion that the flag belonged to his uncle USMC CPT Walter S. Stelpflug, a veteran of WWII, Vietnam, and Korea and a two time Purple Heart recipient. Rocky has kept this flag in his possessions for 31 years and decided that using it to honor a fallen solider was of the noblest value.
When the 12th Aviation Battalion learned of this act, they told Rocky that they would return his flag immediately.
However, Rocky would not accept it: he wanted the flag to cover Tomlin and took great pride in being there to pay his respects to a fallen American soldier. This flag now passes on with Tomlin as a testament and homage to those who have made the ultimate sacrifice.
As a small token of appreciation, members of the 12th Aviation Battalion are taking another flag around the world to be exposed to every area of combat in which American air pilots are engaged. Upon its arrival back to the US, the flag will be taken to the Pentagon, the White House, and the Freedom Tower. The flag will make its final flight through Washington, D.C. with crew members of SPC Tomlin’s company before being presented back to Rocky, an incredible American who helped honor a fallen teammate.
The Saker team at JRB had the pleasure of meeting this group as they passed through New York City. We wish them the best and safe travels on the rest of their inspiring mission and are touched by their generosity.