10/15/09 — Pilot laid to rest in service at Arlington

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Pilot laid to rest in service at Arlington

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on October 15, 2009 1:46 PM

Capt. Mark McDowell

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Katie McDowell, widow of U.S. Air Force Capt. Mark McDowell, accepts an American flag that draped her husband's casket during funeral services at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va.

ARLINGTON, Va. -- A burial service was held this morning for one of two 4th Fighter Wing officers who died in Afghanistan July 18.

336th Fighter Squadron Capt. Mark McDowell was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery as his family, Air Force officials and members of his wing and squadron looked on.

McDowell, a fighter pilot, and Capt. Thomas Gramith, a weapon systems officer, died when their F-15E Strike Eagle crashed during a mission in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

Their deaths marked the first of their kind in OEF and the first to touch Seymour Johnson Air Force Base since April 2003, when a Strike Eagle crash claimed the lives of Maj. William Watkins III and Capt. Eric Das.

News of the incident reached Seymour Johnson shortly after the officers' remains were secured by Coalition forces near Afghanistan's Ghazni Province and just more than a day later, McDowell and Gramith were identified as the two who died.

The weeks that followed saw an outpouring of grief and support from fellow airmen and residents of the communities outside the installation gates.

Two memorial services were held locally and the Blue Ribbon Fund was created to raise money for the families left behind as a result of the crash.

Members of the 336th -- who returned from their four-month tour at Bagram Airfield last month -- and 4th Commander Col. Mark Kelly are expected to be in attendance at this morning's service, and Seymour Johnson F-15Es are set to perform a fly-over in honor of their fallen comrade.

For more on the story as it develops, click www.NewsArgus.com or find complete coverage in Friday's News-Argus.