Friday, July 02, 2010

Air Force Capt. David A. Wisniewski

Remember Our Heroes

Air Force Capt. David A. Wisniewski, 31, of Moville, Iowa

Capt Wisniewski was assigned to the 66th Rescue Squadron, Nellis Air Force Base, Nev.; died July 2 of wounds sustained June 9 near Forward Operating Base Jackson, Afghanistan, in an HH-60G Pave Hawk crash.

David Wisniewski knew what he wanted to do with his life before he even set foot in a first-grade classroom.

During a summer vacation with his Omaha grandparents, the young Iowan went with his grandfather to Offutt Air Force Base. After touring the facility, the two were walking away when the boy stopped and turned around.

“Grandpa, someday I'm going to be flying those things.”

That treasured family tale turned bittersweet this week. Air Force Capt. David Wisniewski, 31, died Friday at Bethesda Naval Hospital in Bethesda, Md., from injuries he suffered when his helicopter was shot down in southeastern Afghanistan on June 9, said his father, Chet Wisniewski. Assigned to the 66th Rescue Squadron, Capt. Wisniewski was the fifth airman to die after the helicopter crash.

The son of Regina's (Iowa) activities director, an Air Force pilot who was shot down in Afghanistan in June, died from his injuries. David Wisniewski, 31, died Friday night at Bethesda Naval Hospital in Bethesda, Md., according to the family's website.

"He passed away peacefully and is with the good Lord taking excellent golf lessons from the greatest golfer ever," the family wrote on

Wisniewski was piloting an Air Force Black Hawk helicopter when it was shot down June 9 in southern Afghanistan. A rocket-propelled grenade appears to have downed the craft, the Washington Post reported. Seven U.S. troops were on the helicopter. Four were killed at the time of the crash.

"He rescued three people who were on the ground and then was watching for the second chopper when they were shot down," Chet Wisniewski told the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier for a story posted online Saturday.

David Wisniewski graduated from Woodbury Central Community School District in Moville before going on to the United States Air Force Academy and flight school, his father Chet Wisniewski said. Chet Wisniewski is Regina's activities director.

"The thoughts and prayers of the entire Regina community are with the Wisniewski family at this most difficult time," Regina Catholic Education Center President Carol Trueg said in a statement. "We are grateful for all who risk their lives to protect our freedom, and especially for David Wisniewski, who made the ultimate sacrifice."

Wisniewski was stationed at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada and lived in Las Vegas.

He had served several tours in Afghanistan and had been hospitalized in Germany, where he underwent brain surgery. Days later he was flown to Andrews Air Force Base in Bethesda for further treatment.

As a pilot, he logged more than 1,500 flight hours, flew 289 combat hours and is credited with saving numerous lives, an academy spokesman said in a written statement.

"In one day, Dave was key in saving 40 people during the largest single mass casualty mission in Regional Command South," Lt. Col. Thomas Dorl, commander of the 66th Rescue Squadron, was quoted as saying. "This was no small feat as he braved enemy action and flew into a hot landing zone three times to save people." Wisniewski received a Purple Heart for his service June 23, according to the family's website.

Having him overseas was difficult, his father said, but the family was reminded often of David's strong faith in his job. “Whenever he would write home, he would always write: “P.S. I do this so you can sleep safe at night,'” Chet Wisniewski said. “He wanted to keep the war over there so we could be safe here. That's just the way he was.”

How much David's family members will miss him isn't easily quantified, he said, but they can take comfort in one thing. “There are not a lot of people who, when they die, say they can die happy because they did what they love to do,” his father said.

Wisniewski turned 31 late last month. Family members celebrated his birthday with Oreo cookies at the hospital, one of Wisniewski's favorite foods, according to a family blog post.

Captain Wisniewski's awards and decorations include the Purple Heart, Air Medal with two oak leaf clusters and Air Force Commendation Medal with one oak leaf cluster. A memorial service will be held at Nellis Air Force Base in honor of Captain Wisniewski at a date yet to be determined and he will be interred at Arlington National Cemetery.

His father said his son was engaged and lived in Las Vegas. Wisniewski is survived by his mother and father, Beverly and Chet, of Iowa City, and two brothers.

Air Force Capt. David A. Wisniewski died 7/2/10 of wounds sustained 6/9/10 in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan.

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