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Ones So Brave

In tribute to pilots
         Keith Yoakum
& Jason Defrenn

They flew for their country,
In the light of freedom's flame;
T
hey flew in a distant land,
In flight, in freedom's name...

They flew up through the air,
Up where our
flag doth wave;
T
hey flew to defend from there,
And others from there to save...

But sadly so,
Their Apache aloft was hit,
A
nd badly by foe,
Yet on they flew with it...

In a world torn to mend,
They fought unto the end...
A
nd thus, these ones so brave,
Their valiant lives they gave...

Even if, in days that wait ahead,
Thine eye doth moisten to a tear...
Look up to our nation's honored t
hread:
Look up, and listen with thine ear...

When the wind doth the flag bestir,
Till it ruffles the
stars and stripes we've known,
Remember Keith and Jason who were,
Flying yet, in our
banner outblown...    
 ―John Riedell

      This poetic tribute was written in honor of Apache pilot Chief Warrant Officer Keith Yoakum of Coffee Springs, Alabama, and his pilot gunner, Chief Warrant Officer Jason Defrenn of Barnwell, S.C., who courageously gave their lives for their country in Iraq, on February 2nd, 2007.
      They were ambushed north of Baghdad, fired upon from multiple positions on the ground.  The heavy machine gun attack resulted in the loss of their utility hydraulics, creating an emergency situation where they needed to get their aircraft down and hope for rescue, or try to make it back to base in their crippled craft. 
      The Apache is so tight on space that those who fly them, go up without parachutes.
      Yoakum, the pilot-in-command, did not discuss leaving his wingman whose helicopter was also hit, but wasn't damaged as badly.  He once told a friend he would never leave a man behind.  Instead of seeking safety, Yoakum stayed up to fight, to protect his wingman and to keep coalition forces from being attacked.  He thought there was only a small window left to deal with the ambush group before they departed the scene.   Their presence could place others in harm's way. 
      Yoakum intended to climb to enable them to use their only workable armaments, some 2.75 mm rockets.  Yoakum and Defrenn flew on,  but their wounded Apache was either shot down or succumbed to battle damage. 
      Yoakum, a maintenance man, was in another war zone once, where he worked on an Apache on the ground with a hydraulics problem, while other helicopters circled above, covering him.  That Apache he was able to nurse home, but it wasn't to be this time.
                                                                                                                 ―JR

 

 
CWO's  Brian Carbone and Keith Yoakum holding the flag.  Normally, Carbone of Palisade, Colorado, would have been Yoakum's pilot-gunner, but on that sad day of February 2nd, 2007, Yoakum's pilot-gunner was CWO Jason Defrenn from Barnwell, S.C.

 

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