Thomas J. Gramith
Captain, United States Air Force
U.S. Department of Defense
IMMEDIATE RELEASE No. 527-09
DoD Identifies Air Force Casualties
The Department of Defense announced today the deaths of two airmen who were supporting Operation Enduring Freedom. They died July 17, 2009, in a F-15E crash near Ghazni Province, Afghanistan.
Captain Thomas J. Gramith, 27, of Eagan, Minnesota. He was assigned to the 336th Fighter Squadron, Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina.
Captain Mark R. McDowell, 26, of Colorado Springs, Colorado. He was assigned to the 336th Fighter Squadron, Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina.
For further information, please contact Seymour
Johnson Air Force Base Public Affairs office at (919) 722-0027.
SEYMOUR JOHNSON AIR FORCE BASE, NORTH CAROLINA — A Charlotte native was among two Seymour Johnson Air Force Base-based officers killed when an F-15E Strike Eagle fighter jet crashed in Afghanistan Friday.
Captain Thomas J. Gramith, 27, of Eagan, Minnesota, and Captain Mark R. McDowell, 26, of Colorado Springs, Colorado, died in the crash, military officials said. They had been flying for several hours, providing air support to ground troops in the Ghazni Province when their plane went down around 3:15 a.m. in Kabul, Afghanistan.
Both men were assigned to the 336th Fighter Squadron, which deployed in April for a four-month tour of duty.
“This is a very deep personal loss that we've taken. These are our neighbors, our friends, our coworkers,” said Colonel Mark Kelly, 4th Fighter Wing commander, Seymour Johnson Air Force Base.
McDowell is a native of Charlotte and attended the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. He leaves behind his father in Adamsville, mother in Clemson, South Carolina, and grandparents in Sanford.
His wife is also in the Air Force, serving on a deployment to Iraq. The couple would have been married for two years this Thanksgiving.
Gilbert McDowell, a pastor in Sanford, said he was proud of his grandson, because everywhere he was stationed, he joined a church and taught Sunday school.
Kelly said thousands of North Carolina-based soldiers were among the ground troops McDowell and Gramith were supporting.
“We have literally thousands of Marines from Camp Lejeune just down the road that are dispersed across the Helman province, down south. We have thousands and thousands of soldiers from Fort Bragg that are operating in the east, so this is a very deep North Carolina protection event,” Kelly said.
The cause of the crash hasn't been released, but military officials have said it was from non-hostile action. F-15s fly in pairs, so another jet was alongside the plane during the crash.
A board of officers in Afghanistan is investigating the crash, military officials said. A safety investigation normally takes 30 to 45 days, but since this crash happened in a combat zone, the investigation is expected to take longer.
The U.S. military hasn't released more information about the crash, but Afghan authorities told The Associated Press that the plane went down in the Nawur district of Ghazni province in central Afghanistan, a peaceful area populated by the ethnic Hazara minority.
Mohammed Qasim Naziri, the deputy district chief, said the crash site was between two villages in a desert surrounded by mountains about 20 miles south of the town of Nawur. Kelly described the terrain as unforgiving.
He said local people notified police of the crash, but by the time authorities reached the site, U.S. troops had surrounded the area and barred Afghan authorities from approaching the wreckage.
The last similar accident involving Seymour Johnson aircraft was on April 7, 2003.
The bodies of Gramith and McDowell were flown
to Dover Air Force Base in Dover, Delaware, Sunday.
Governor Tim Pawlenty has ordered that all U.S. flags and Minnesota flags be flown at half-staff at the Capitol Complex, including state buildings, monuments, and grounds in proximity to and including the Minnesota State Capitol, from sunrise until sunset on Saturday, August 1, 2009, in honor and remembrance of Captain Thomas J. Gramith.
The following is the text of the Governor's official proclamation:
Whereas: Captain Thomas J. Gramith was born in Saint Paul, Minnesota, on October 8, 1981; and
Whereas: Captain Thomas J. Gramith graduated from St. Thomas Academy, Mendota Heights, Minnesota, in 2000; and
Whereas: Captain Thomas J. Gramith graduated with a degree in aeronautical engineering from North Dakota State University (NDSU) in 2005; and
Whereas: Captain Thomas J. Gramith was part of the NDSU Army Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) and went directly into the United States Air Force following graduation; and
Whereas: Captain Thomas J. Gramith was a member of the 336th Fighter Squadron, United States Air Force, based out of Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina; and
Whereas: Captain Thomas J. Gramith was a devoted soldier and selfless leader. He loved serving his country and did so with great pride; and
Whereas: Captain Thomas J. Gramith died a hero fighting for freedom on Friday, July 17, 2009, near Ghazni Province, Afghanistan, while serving in support of Operation Enduring Freedom; and
Whereas: Captain Thomas J. Gramith is survived by his wife, Angie; daughters, Stella and Eva; father and step-mother, Frederick and Cynthia; mother and step-father, Patricia and Robert; grandfather, Thomas; sister and brother-in-law, Kathryn and Don; sister and brother, Liesl and Patrick; step-sister and brother-in-law, Roberta and Jeremy; step-sisters, Karrin, Brionna, Rebekah, and Amber; step-brothers, Michael and Matthew; father and mother-in-law, Joseph and Betty; and other loving family and friends; and
Whereas: Captain Thomas J. Gramith was preceded in death by his grandparents, Helen, Clifford, and LuVerne; and
Whereas: Visitation for Captain Thomas J. Gramith
will be held Friday, July 31, 2009, from 5:00 p.m. to
Whereas: A Mass of Christian Burial for Captain Thomas J. Gramith will be held Saturday, August 1, 2009, at 10:00 a.m. at the Cathedral of Saint Paul, Saint Paul, Minnesota; and
Whereas: A ceremony with full military honors will be held Saturday, August 1, 2009, at Resurrection Cemetery, Mendota Heights, Minnesota; and
Whereas: The State of Minnesota recognizes Captain Thomas J. Gramith for his dedicated service to and sacrifice for the people of this country with our deepest gratitude, and our thoughts and prayers are with his family, friends, and community.
Now, Therefore, I, Tim Pawlenty, Governor of Minnesota, do hereby order all U.S. flags and Minnesota flags be flown at half-staff at the Capitol Complex, including state buildings, monuments, and grounds in proximity to and including the Minnesota State Capitol, from sunrise until sunset on Saturday, August 1, 2009, in honor and remembrance of Captain Thomas J. Gramith.
NOTE: Co-mingled remains of Captain Gramith and Captain McDowell were buried in a joint burial service at Arlington National Cemetery on 13 November 2009.
Posted: 15 November 2009 Updated: 7 December 2009 April 2010
Photo Courtesy of Eileen Horan, April 2010
Photos By Eileen Horan, November 2009