By Nita Johnson
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
With the funerals and memorial services for the victims of Air Evac 109 taking place last week, the Air Evac Lifeteam celebrated — and mourned — with a memorial service of their own on Saturday morning.
Just eight days after losing Eddy Sizemore, Jesse Jones, and Lee Dobbs in a tragic helicopter crash just yards from its Manchester-based landing pad, Air Evac Lifeteam members from all across the country gathered in London for their own service to honor the lives and sacrifices of the three crew members.
The stage was set with large pictures of each crew member of Air Evac 109, adorned with red, white and blue flowers and accented with the flight uniform, helmet, and boots of each crew member.
Members of the Air Evac team filed into the gymnasium at North Laurel High School, joining family members in a seating section on the gym floor. An estimated 300 persons filled the seats on one side of the gym — all there to pay their respects to the men whom the community now terms as “heroes.”
Memories were outlined by special speakers from each family. Chuck Johnson spoke on behalf of the Laurel County Sheriff’s Office where Eddy Sizemore had resigned before accepting the pilot job with Air Evac. Sizemore was an excellent pilot, Johnson said, and was known for his story telling.
“Everybody has an Eddy story,” Johnson said.
Jesse Jones was also remembered for his sense of humor, but mostly for his dedication to being a nurse. His former instructor, Liza Brooks, said Jones “taught me to live life every day to the fullest.”
“I will never look at the sky again without thinking of Jesse,” she said, “because the sky was not the limit for him.”
Herman Dobbs, the father of Lee Dobbs, sobbed as he addressed the crowd.
“Lee was my son,” he said, his voice cracking with emotion. “What he would want me to say to the other families is that he is sorry for your loss. He would say, 'Those men were my partners....' It takes a special kind of person to do this job. I’m thankful the Lord gave me a son like that, and I know if he could talk to me now he would say, 'Dad, I’d do it over again.'”
The ceremony included a presentation of fire helmets to each of the families by the Manchester Fire Department, with the pinning of wings on each of the 109 crew member’s pictures.
Seth Myers, president of Air Evac Lifeteam, presented a framed picture of the crew members to the Manchester Air Evac Lifeteam, designating the crew as the guardian angels of the Clay County operation.
While tears rolled down the cheeks of nearly every person in attendance at Saturday’s memorial, the Last Call for the beloved crew members resounded throughout the gym.
“Last call for November One-One-Nine Alpha Echo is out of service.........forever. God speed and blue skies.”