MOBILE, Ala. — Coast Guard Aviation Training Center Mobile held a memorial service to pay tribute to the crew of Coast Guard helicopter 6535 at the unit, March 1.
Lt. j.g. Thomas Cameron, Chief Petty Officer Fernando Jorge, Petty Officer 3rd Class Andrew Knight, and Lt. Cmdr. Dale Taylor were aboard Coast Guard 6535 when it fatally crashed during a nighttime training flight in Mobile Bay, Feb. 28, 2012.
The memorial service was held to commemorate the loss of Coast Guard helicopter 6535. More than 1,000 people were in attendance with guests including family and friends of the crew, Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Bob Papp, the Patriot Guard Riders, representatives from the Coast Guard Foundation and local leaders from Mobile.
The service began with the color guard presenting colors. A designated family or close friend spoke on behalf of each crew member. The service ended with Lt. j.g. Andrew Bacon, friend and former classmate of Cameron, playing “Amazing Grace” on the bagpipes while a diamond formation of four MH-65 helicopters flew over the memorial site.
Capt. Tom Maine, the commanding officer of ATC Mobile, presented the newly built memorial, which now sits as a centerpiece for the unit.
“This memorial, which so many have worked so hard to bring to reality, is far more than just granite, bricks, concrete and bushes,” said Maine. “It is a promise to the families and friends and former shipmates of Coast Guard 6535 that those men will never be forgotten by the men and women of ATC Mobile, nor by the hundreds of students from all over the Coast Guard who will walk by this site each day. They will be remembered by Coast Guard aviation; those now serving and those who will serve in years to come."
A previous memorial for Coast Guard helicopter 1427 was relocated to be placed in conjunction with the memorial for the crew of 6535. On Oct. 22, 1981, Lt. Raymond Brooks, Petty Officer 3rd Class Joe Hinton, Petty Officer 3rd Class Mark Johnson and Lt. j.g. Robert Winter Jr. lost their lives during a nighttime training mission caused by a failure of the main rotor assembly which caused the aircraft to break apart in flight.
“The crew of 6535 as well the crew of 1427 are part of our long blue line of dedicated Coast Guardsmen who have stepped forward to serve their fellow man and put service before themselves,” said Papp. “Future generations of Coast Guardsmen who walk down this path passing these two memorials... be sure that they will always be remembered; they will forever be a part of us and that’s the cement that holds this monument together.”