08/04/09 — Council honors fallen air crew

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Council honors fallen air crew

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on August 4, 2009 1:46 PM

For the second time in as many meetings, Goldsboro City Council members found time to honor two 4th Fighter Wing airmen who died in Afghanistan.

Mayor Al King first read formal proclamations expressing the city's sadness over the loss of 336th Fighter Squadron Capt. Mark McDowell and Capt. Thomas Gramith, who died July 18 when their F-15E Strike Eagle crashed during a close-air-support mission.

He then promoted a city-sponsored memorial service to be held at 9 a.m. Thursday on the steps of City Hall.

The service, which King said would last "15, maybe 20, minutes," will give those local residents who were unable to attend last week's memorial on Seymour Johnson Air Force Base a venue to pay their respects to two of the men who helped maintain their freedom.

"We have received an awful lot of local citizens' requests that we do something as a city," King said. "So we're going to do that."

In addition to the formal ceremony -- set to feature a moment of silence and remarks from King, 4th Commander Col. Mark Kelly and Wayne County Board of Commissioners Chairman Bud Gray -- donations also will be accepted for the Blue Ribbon Fund, which was set up by The Goldsboro News-Argus to pay tribute to the lost crew -- and to take care of the families they left behind.

"We have received an awful lot of local citizens' requests that we do something as a city, so we're going to do that," King said. "Please, encourage your neighbors and anyone you see to come out. ... We want you to come out and show your respect to these two young men who gave all they had. The least we can do is say thank you."

Mayor Pro Tem Chuck Allen agreed.

"I don't just encourage you, I implore you to come," he said.

The deaths of McDowell and Gramith marked the first combat-related losses suffered by the 4th Fighter Wing since Operation Iraqi Freedom, when, on April 7, 2003, an F-15E crash claimed the lives of Maj. William R. Watkins III and Capt. Eric B. Das.