Soldiers killed in Afghanistan called 'patriots' by fellow Guardsman

Chief Warrant Officer John M. Flynn, 36, of Sparks, and Sgt. Patrick D. Stewart, 35, of Fernley, both from Company D, 113th Aviation Unit of the Nevada Army National Guard based in Stead were among five soldiers who died Sunday in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan.

The soldiers, including two from Oregon and one from Arizona, crashed near Daychopan district in the rugged, mountainous, southern Zabul province.

Washoe County Sheriff's Office Incline Village Substation Commander Gregg Lubbe knew and served with both men. Flynn and his family were especially close to Lubbe's thoughts this week.

"I guess I sound like a bit of a Boy Scout when I say this," Lubbe said. "But both those men were patriots. They died doing what they felt was right. They died serving their country. All politics and opinions aside, they felt they had a job to do, and they did it better than anyone else."

Lubbe, also a chief warrant officer, celebrated his 20th anniversary with the armed services Sunday. He recently stepped down from command of the 126th Medical Company in Northern Nevada. His time spent with Flynn dates back to the 1980s.

"Back then, we flew Huey (helicopters)," Lubbe said. "Flynn was a medic. He eventually went to flight school in the early 1990s, and in the late 1990s transferred to D Company.

"In that time, he was able to start a successful business as a contractor in Reno, marry, and raise a family. He was a remarkable person."

Flynn, a pilot and instructor, joined the Nevada Guard in 1988. Stewart, a repair technician who had been in the Nevada Guard for 11 years, also served in Desert Storm, military officials said.

"When something like this happens, it hits right at home," Brig. Gen. Randall Sayre told reporters Monday at the Stead base north of Reno.

Lt. Col. Bob Harington said it is "a very personal matter for everyone in our guard community."

"The guard is a family of soldiers, if you will," he said. "We tend to stay in units for a long time. I would say the majority of the unit has known at least one of them for a number of years."

Lubbe said the military guard "family" is a tight one, but a loss like this is "taken a bit differently."

"I think a lot of us in the guard are more afraid of going because we fell off a ladder in the garage or choked on an olive at a cocktail party," Lubbe said. "Of course, all of us would like to die as 95-year-old men sitting in a rocker overlooking the Mediterranean.

"But when you sign up to serve, when you have a dedication to your country, when this is what you love to do, this is sometimes how it has to be."

Daychopan has been the scene of some of the fiercest fighting with Taliban rebels.

"One thing I do know is we send some of the best-trained pilots there," said Lubbe. "Our Nevada boys deal with flying (in) forest fires while they're doing their regular jobs, which you could say because of the altitude and conditions is a lot more challenging than some combat fighting.

"So when we go in, we're the best. We're not cocky, just confident. The men who were lost will never be replaced."

n The Associated Press contributed to this story


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