By all accounts, Chief Warrant Officer Donald Clark was a model citizen. He joined the U.S. Navy out of high school and eventually worked in electronics on the submarine USS Finback. He also got married and raised a family. After getting out of the Navy, he decided to go back into the military and joined the Army.
This led to his decision to become a helicopter pilot and he became a Warrant Officer (WO), an instructor pilot and a aide to a general. He was especially proud of his black Stetson Cavalry hat and the fact that he could also wear his Navy Submarine Dolphins on his army uniform, a rather unusual combination.
Unfortunately, all this came to an end in 2008 when the OH-58 Kiowa Scout helicopter he was piloting was lost in Mosul, Iraq, under unexplained circumstances, along with his observer. His family did their best to put their lives back together but losing a son and father is something that never goes away.
Recently, the family attended a wedding at MAPS and found out about the Fallen Feathers Memorial honoring Ohioan's killed in the War on Terror. They saw Clark's feather and found out that the museum had a Kiowa as part of the museum's aircraft display.
One of the tour guides, Jim Boyea, was a Vietnam Veteran who flew the Kiowa and he showed them the type of helicopter that their son had flown. It was decided, in keeping with the MAPS theme of honoring Ohio servicemen, that Clark's name would be added to the side of the helicopter in recognition of his sacrifice.'
A week or so after the wedding, members of the family came to MAPS to see the Kiowa with Clark's name on the left crew door and give a taped interview. Both parents, Donald and Linda, were joined by sister Dena Bode and her son, Thomas, to talk with the MAPS history department about Clark and his service to our country.
"He was my older brother, and my hero," said Bode. "He was always there to look out for me. He loved his country and believed in what he was doing in Iraq. He led by example."
"Donny really loved his job," said his father. "He loved to fly. But he never forgot his home back here. Everyone who knew him liked and respected him."
"He was the type of person who made people feel important, welcome, " his mother said. "He was our protector, he was just such a great son."
They talked for nearly an hour about their son and brother who lost his life doing what he loved to do. The love and affection for him, and the sorrow at his passing was evident throughout the interview. Seeing his name on the side of the Kiowa and being able to hold the carved feather with his name on it brought back memories of their fallen hero.
There is an old Greek saying, "As long as a man is remembered, he will never die." For most people seeing his name on the helicopter or on the carved feather does not evoke much response, but for this family it brings back memories of a very special person who they lost. And it tells the story of a young man who answered his country's call.