Monday, October 26, 2009

Army Chief Warrant Officer 3 Niall Lyons

Remember Our Heroes

Army Chief Warrant Officer 3 Niall Lyons, 40, of Spokane, Wash.

CWO3 Lyons was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 160th Special Operations Regiment (Airborne), Hunter Army Airfield, Ga.; died Oct. 26 of wounds suffered when the MH-47 helicopter he was aboard crashed in Darreh-ye Bum, Afghanistan. Also killed were Army Chief Warrant Officer 4 Michael P. Montgomery, Sgt. 1st Class David E. Metzger, Staff Sgt. Keith R. Bishop, Staff Sgt. Shawn H. McNabb, Sgt. Josue E. Hernandez Chavez and Sgt. Nickolas A. Mueller. -- Jesse Lee recently lost his neighbor.

But Lee said he lost more than a neighbor. He lost a friend when Niall Lyons recently died from the injuries he suffered in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan.

Lyons, 40, was one of 10 U.S. servicemen to die Monday after the Chinook helicopter they were flying in crashed in Western Afghanistan.

U.S. Army Sgt. Eric Hendrix, of the public affairs office at Fort Bragg, N.C., said Lyons was one of seven U.S. Army Special Operations Command Soldiers who died in the crash. Hendrix also confirmed three U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents also died in the crash.

“We shared life together for about four years,” Lee said. “He was the best neighbor I ever had. My family had gone through some difficult times, and he was there for us. He became more than just a neighbor, he was part of our family.”

Lyons lived in Dothan with his 8-year-old son, John Patrick Lyons. According to Lee and a U.S. Army statement, Lyons was a native of Spokane, Wash., and joined the Army in 1994, before his move to the Dothan in 1998.

Lyons served as an Army helicopter pilot, and according to information provided by the U.S. Army, he served as combat veteran with two deployments, including Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. According to an Army statement, Lyons was most recently assigned to 3rd Battalion, 160th Special Operations Aviation Airborne Regiment in Savannah, Ga.

Lee recalled sharing many a meal with Lyons, including some over the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. Gussie Lee, Jesse’s wife, said she and her husband last saw Lyons over the Labor Day holiday weekend. Lee said Lyons was a member of St. Columba Catholic Church in Dothan.

“He was coming home in November, and he would’ve had Thanksgiving with us, and we would’ve gone fishing,” Jesse Lee said. “But what I’ll miss the most about him is his friendship.”

Phil Schmiesing of Enterprise attended a memorial service at Hunter Army Airfield in Savannah, Ga., Friday afternoon with his wife, Robin Schmiesing, that honored several of the people who died in the crash, including Lyons. Phil Schmiesing said he first met Lyons about 10 years ago when he served as Lyons’ flight instructor.

“He’s like a brother to us,” said Robin Schmiesing. “Our home was his home when he came home, he spent Christmases with us. He loved spending time with his son. That was the joy of his life.”

Phil and Robin Schmiesing are god-parents to John Patrick Lyons.

Gussie Lee described Lyons as very patriotic and that he died doing what he believed in, serving his country.

Hendrix said the cause of the helicopter crash remained under investigation Friday. But he said enemy fire has been ruled out as a cause to the crash. He said dust could’ve likely got into the aircraft’s engine and caused the crash.

According to a statement from the DEA Web site, the three DEA agents had recently returned from a successful counter narcotics operation during which they served search warrants in a western province of Afghanistan when the crash happened.

“It was joint mission involving the DEA,” Hendrix said.

Army Chief Warrant Officer 3 Niall Lyons was killed in action on 10/26/09.

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