When presented with an opportunity to honor the fallen of Spirit 03, an AC-130 spector gunship stationed out of Hurlburt Field, we couldn't have jumped fast enough. While the three of us are grateful every single day for our husbands to continue to defend our freedom, some families' heros were taken far too soon. In order to fully honor the members of Spirit 03, we feel it necessary to give a brief history of the story of these brave men.
"Three gunships were airborne that morning over the Marines, and the first two had destroyed numerous armored personnel carriers. Air attacks destroyed some vehicles, damaged several more, and forced crews to abandon others. The net effect was to strip the enemy of its ability to achieve the surprise, momentum, massed effects, and dominance that are the hallmarks of successful maneuver.
At 0600 hours on the morning of January 31, 1991 "Spirit 03" was the last of three AC-130 Spectre gunships on station to provide close air support for the embattled Marines on the ground. Spirit 03 was due to end its patrol when it received a call from the Marines - they needed an enemy missile battery destroyed. Despite the risk of anti-aircraft artillery fire, and the greater danger of the morning sun casting light on the circling gunship, the crew of "Spirit 03" chose to remain and destroy the position requested.
Soon after eliminating the target designated by the Marines, a lone Iraqi hoisted an SA-7 "Grail" manportable surface-to-air missile to his shoulder. In the dawn of the early morning light, the form of the large AC-130 slowly became visible in the skies over Khafji. The decision to remain behind to support the Marines cost the pilots and crew of Spirit 03 their best defensive weapon - darkness. The Iraqi pointed the weapon at the aircraft, and fired. The missile found its target and at 0635 hours the aircraft sent out a "mayday" distress call and then crashed into the waters of the Persian Gulf. All 14 crewmembers were killed."
reference: http://www.specialoperations.com/Memorial/spirit.html Portions of the above excerpted from "The Epic Little Battle of Khafji" By Rebecca Grant
They risked their lives in order to ensure the safety of others. We toss around this sentence on a daily basis with America being at war for nearly a decade, but if you really sit and think about what that means, look back on your life and think if there was ever a point that you did the same. Perhaps there was and if there was, we commend you. But for the majority of citizens, there is never a point in their lives where they can wholeheartedly say they walked through a valley of darkness for a fellow man. The crew of Spirit 03 walked through that darkness and never made it out in order to ensure that their fellow men did see the light of day again. True heroes that were selfless, courageous and patriotic to the core. They completed the mission at the cost of their own lives.
~In memory of Spirit 03 from AFW~
To the crew of Spirit 03, you will never be forgotten. And to their family and friends, the story of these brave men will forever live on.