The fallen pilots from Tuesday's helicopter crash near Richmond Hill will be remembered by the Third Infantry Division and people around the Coastal Empire. WTOC's Liz Flynn spoke with Chief Warrant Officer Nick DiMona, II in February as part of our Bravery in Combat series.
DiMona loved his family and loved to fly. He was proud to be a part of the Army and the Third Infantry Division's campaign in Iraq. When the first aircraft led the charge into Operation Iraqi Freedom, Chief Warrant Officer Nick DiMona with the 1-3 Aviation Regiment was right there.
CW2 Nick DiMona: "(I was) a little nervous," CW2 DiMona explained. "(there was) a little tension the first time in the Super Bowl, as we called it, but once you get into the mix of things, your training, you just go back to your training and it comes natural."
The heavily armed Apache Longbows of 1-3 Aviation Charlie Company would fly five major missions in Operation Iraqi Freedom, taking out the enemy's observation points and vehicles. Chief Warrant Officer DiMona's Apache, alone, would fire three hellfire missiles and eight rockets to clear the way for ground troops; but it was their other support missions that would bring him the most satisfaction.
"The most gratifying part of being over there weren't the deliberate missions, but the med-evac missions, said DiMona. "The med-evac escort: escorting an unarmed Black Hawk with sometimes multiple systems failures in enemy territory to ensure the safety of injured American soldiers and sometimes wounded Iraqi soldiers and get them back to the MASH units."
The First Battalion Third Aviation Regiment did not lose anyone in Operation Iraqi Freedom, but the war was not without close calls.
"We went in on a lot of on-call missions," he added. "We flew in and flew around helping the ground guys, looking for the enemy within the engagement areas and at one point, we found ourselves in the engagement area with rounds coming inbound."
For their role in Operation Iraqi Freedom, Chief Warrant Officer DiMona and the aviators of 1-3 Aviation were awarded the air medal. "I'm very proud and honored," said DiMona. "Before I became a pilot, I thought if I could receive an air medal, that was something I could be proud of."
Still, this decorated war veteran insists he's no hero. "I consider what I did, my job," stated DiMona. "Unfortunately, the fallen comrades, I consider them the heroes. They made the ultimate sacrifice."
Even after he returned from Iraq, his fallen comrades, along with the men and women still serving in Iraq, were constantly on his mind. "Every night, my children and I say our prayers," he said. "We pray for their safe and speedy return."