Five days before the Huey helicopter she was aboard crashed into a mountain northeast of Kathmandu, Marine Cpl. Sara A. Medina, 23, photographed American and Nepalese soldiers working together to help victims of the April 25 earthquake in Nepal.
Medina, a combat photographer from the Chicago suburb of Aurora, died in the May 12 wreck with five other Americans and two Nepalese soldiers. They were on a humanitarian mission, delivering food and tarps to earthquake victims.
When we think of fallen military service members each Memorial Day, we naturally tend to remember those who have died in wartime combat missions. But every kind of mission brings dangers at any moment and our state is reminded of that on this Memorial Day.
On Thursday,Petty Officer 3rd Class Ryan D. Burris, 24, of suburban Lisle, died in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, in a non-combat related incident at Zayed Military City that is under investigation. Burris was part of Operation Inherent Resolve, an effort against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
We would like to honor Burris, whose wrestling coach at Lisle High School, John Davis, described him to the Daily Herald as “kind of an ultimate teammate.”
And we would like to honor as well those, like Medina, who have served selflessly in humanitarian missions. They, too, are the best of us.They offer a hand — a strong American hand —to people around the world whose lives have been left in tatters by natural and man-made disasters. Through their work, America forges bonds with other countries. They come armed not with guns, but with food and blankets and medicines.EDITORIAL
Here at home, Americans don’t think twice about rushing to help neighbors who are victims of tornados and floods.
Overseas, we count on our men and women in uniform to draw on the mighty wherewithal of the U.S. to help rescue, feed and soothe those who cling to life after earthquakes, tsunamis and hurricanes.
After Typhoon Haiyan left more than 6,000 dead and millions displaced in the Philippines in 2013, U.S. Marines and sailors took part in search and rescue as well as evacuation missions. Five years ago, more than 15,000 military members helped in Operation Unified Response after an earthquake in Haiti killed tens of thousands.
The earthquake in Nepal killed more than 8,000 people and injured thousands more. About 900 U.S. military members and civilians with the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines took part in the relief mission dubbed Operation Sahayogi Haat, which means “helping hand” in Nepali. About a third worked on logistics from Japan; another third in Thailand. About 300 traveled to Nepal to deliver 114 tons of food, blankets, water and medical supplies.
Marine Cpl. Sara A. Medina of Aurora was one of six Americans killed in a helicopter crash during a humanitarian relief mission in Nepal.
On May 7, Marine Cpl. Sara A. Medina photographed U.S. Air Force Capt. Asim Khan shaking hands with Nepal Army Air Service Maj. Habibur Rahman after unloading cargo from an aircraft in Nepal. The photo appears on the Department of Defense website.
Medina captured a glimpse of the alliance in a photo essay from Nepal that she produced for the Defense Department. She photographed U.S. airmen and Nepalese service men working side by side to unload supplies in Kathmandu and talking over flight plans to distribute aid.
She died in the crash with Capt. Dustin R. Lukasiewicz, 29, a helicopter pilot from Harlan, Neb.; Capt. Christopher L. Norgren, 31, a pilot from Sedgwick, Kan.; Sgt. Ward M. Johnson IV, 29, a crew chief from Seminole, Fla.; Sgt. Eric M. Seaman, 30, a crew chief from Riverside, Calif.; and Lance Cpl. Jacob A. Hug, a combat videographer from Maricopa, Ariz. The two Nepalese soldiers who died were Tapendra Rawal and Basanta Titara.
The non-combat deaths of Americans this month are reminders of the risks of military service. They all left us too early. They are all remembered for a job well done.