David Anthony Wisniewski
Captain, United States Air Force
Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)
IMMEDIATE RELEASE No. 576-10
The Department of Defense announced today the death of an airman who was supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.
Captain David A. Wisniewski, 31, of Moville, Iowa, died July 2, 2010, of wounds sustained June 9, 2010, in a helicopter crash near Forward Operating Base Jackson, Afghanistan. He was assigned to the 66th Rescue Squadron, Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada.
For further information related to this release, please contact the Nellis Air Force Base public affairs office at 702-652-2750.
10 July 2010:
Medevac pilot remembered for lives he saved
A visit to an Air Force museum as a kindergartner inspired Captain David A. Wisniewski to join the service. His strong Catholic convictions motivated him to become a helicopter pilot, placing his own life in jeopardy as he rescued injured people in combat zones.
“He didn’t want to drop bombs from 40,000 feet and kill people,” said his father, Chet Wisniewski. “He wanted to save people. That’s what he trained to do, and that’s what he wanted to do.”
David Wisniewski’s HH-60G Pave Hawk crashed in Afghanistan on June 9, 2010 — reportedly after a rocket-propelled grenade shot it down as the crew prepared to evacuate wounded British troops. Four airmen on board were killed.
Wisniewski, the aircraft’s pilot, was one of three injured. He died from his wounds July 2, 2010, at National Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland.
“He never quite recovered,” Chet Wisniewski said. “We weren’t trying to give anybody false hopes, but it was a massive head injury. He couldn’t overcome it.”
Wisniewski, a 31-year-old Iowa native and 2002 Air Force Academy graduate, served with the 66th Rescue Squadron at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada. He was on his seventh deployment, his father said. Wisniewski flew more than 1,500 hours — including 289 combat hours — during his eight-year career, according to a Nellis press release.
His squadron commander, Lieutenant Colonel Col. Thomas Dorl, praised Wisniewski’s response to a mass casualty in Afghanistan that involved shuttling 40 people to safety.
“This was no small feat as he braved enemy action and flew into a hot landing zone three times to save people who [he] did not even know,” Dorl said.
Killed the day of the crash were Lieutenant Joel C. Gentz, Staff Sergeant David C. Smith, Technical Sergeant Michael P. Flores and Senior Airman Benjamin D. White.
It was the deadliest day for Air Force personnel at war in more than five years, and the transfer of the four airmen's remains drew the secretary of the Air Force, chief of staff and chief master sergeant of the Air Force to Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, to pay their respects.
The two airmen injured in the crash, Captain Anthony Simone and Technical Sergeant Christopher Aguilera, both of the 66th Rescue Squadron, are recovering at Brooke Army Medical Center, Texas.
Chet Wisniewski said his son took his girlfriend on a cruise to Mexico last November and proposed. The two planned to marry September 4, 2010 in Las Vegas.
Instead, he will be interred August 23, 2010 at Arlington National Cemetery.
During his stay in Bethesda, colleagues from around the world came to visit Wisniewski. It was, his father said, fitting for a man who aimed to improve others’ lives.
“If I were to write an epitaph on his gravestone,”
Chet Wisniewski said, “it would be, ‘He truly made a difference in the
lives of the people he touched.’ ”
Captain David A. Wisniewski had just spent three days in February traveling to Afghanistan through several time zones with little sleep, and as he was speaking to Lieutenant Colonel Daniel Duffy, he appeared antsy and kept looking over his shoulder.
"OK, let's go. I'm ready," Duffy said Wisniewski told him.
And that's how Duffy remembers Wisniewski — a selfless and dedicated officer who saved hundreds of lives around the world as an evaluator pilot with the 66th Rescue Squadron.
Wisniewski, 31, of Moville, Iowa, died July 2, 2010, from injuries suffered in a helicopter crash June 9, 2010, in Afghanistan. Family, friends and colleagues gathered at Nellis Air Force Base on Thursday morning to remember him during a memorial service.
"Today, over hundreds of families are touched by David Wisniewski as a memory of him lives on with each of these families," said Duffy, referring to the lives Wisniewski saved during missions.
Wisniewski's friend, Major Paul Sheetz, said his colleague's best quality was his dedication — dedication to his loved ones and his job. The two completed Weapons School at Nellis together, where they would often swap stories.
"His stories weren't there to brag or to say 'hey, look at the great accomplishments I did,'" he said. "They were there to help teach us and to help us all learn from his lessons and make sure that we didn't make any mistakes."
Wisniewski graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 2002, where he majored in civil engineering. During his time with the 33rd Rescue Squadron starting in 2004, he was stationed at Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, Japan, and was deployed to the Philippines and Afghanistan.
He transferred to Nellis in June 2008, and after completing Weapons School, he was promoted to chief of weapons and tactics and evaluator pilot with the 66th Rescue Squadron. He served in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Craig Wisniewski said his brother always knew he wanted to become a pilot — so much so that he only applied to the Air Force Academy after graduating from high school.
Craig Wisniewski, who was three years older than David, recalled an incident from their teenage years that he said highlighted his brother's honor. Oil began spilling out of their parents' new Chevrolet Lumina after the brothers took it to do jumps at a gravel pit.
Plagued by guilt, David confessed the whole story to his father.
That honor and motivation led Wisniewski to his Air Force career, Craig Wisniewski said.
"He loved his job, the people he worked with and believed in the motto 'these things we do so others may live,'" Craig Wisniewski said.
Wisniewski is survived by his parents, Chet and Beverly, brothers Craig and Matt, and his fiancee Melissa Sandberg.
He will be buried August 23, 2010 at Arlington
For the parents of Air Force pilot David Wisniewski, however, there were no jubilant crowds, rousing speeches or warm embraces, only a flag-draped casket. Wisniewski, 31, died July 2, 2010, from injuries he sustained when the Black Hawk helicopter was shot down June 9, 2010, in southern Afghanistan.
His father, Regina activities director Chet Wisniewski, said the days since his son’s death have been peaks and valleys, good days and bad. Wisnieski said he has gotten by, in part, thanks to stories of his son’s bravery and risking his life to save others.
“David, for us, is a true American hero,” he said. “He represents what it’s all about.”
David Wisniewski received a hero’s welcome when his body was flown into the Eastern Iowa Airport in Cedar Rapids Wednesday. Both a military honor guard and the civilian patriot guard from Iowa were part of a service at the airport and a processional from the airport to Lensings Funeral Service in Iowa City.
The procession began with the patriot guard – comprised of military veterans, motorcycle riders and members of the public – formed two lines coming straight out from the side door of the plane carrying Wisniewski’s casket. The patriot guard, some clad in leather and other biker gear, held flags as the honor guard carried Wisniewski’s casket into the hearse.
The 15-minute service was mostly silent, save for the clicking of the honor guard’s boot heels. Wisniewski’s parents held each other’s hand and wiped tears from their eyes while their son’s casket was moved from the plane to the hearse. Chet Wisniewski placed a hand on his son’s silver casket before the hearse door was shut.
The patriot guard, riding on motorcycles, then accompanied the Wisniewskis and officials from Lensings to the funeral home.
Steve Cox, assistant state captain for the patrol guard, said it is important to show support and appreciation to the families of soldiers, something many of the Vietnam veterans did not receive when they returned home.
“That family in there, that young man is everything to them,” Cox said. “It’s important to know we’re here to honor them.”
Cox, who served in Vietnam and has been with the patriot guard since April 2006, said the experience is still emotional for him.
“The experience itself is heartwarming and
heart-wrenching,” he said.
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Funeral services have been set for a U.S. Air Force helicopter pilot from Iowa who died after a battle in Afghanistan.
A visitation is scheduled for Captain David Wisniewski of Moville on Friday at St. Patrick's Catholic Church in Iowa City. Wisniewski's funeral Mass is set for Saturday at the church. Wisniewski is to be buried with military honors at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia., on August 23, 2010.
Wisniewski died July 2, 2010, at Bethesda Naval Hospital in Bethesda, Maryland. He was flying an Air Force Black Hawk helicopter on June 9, 2010, when it crashed. The Defense Department says that in his eight-year career, Wisniewski logged more than 1,500 flight hours, flew 289 combat hours and saved numerous lives, including several during his most recent deployment to Afghanistan.
WISNIEWSKI, DAVID ANTHONY
Posted: 22 July 2010 Updated: 21 September 2010 Updated: 29 December 2010
Photos By Eileen Horan, November 2010
Photos By Eileen Horan, September 2010