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July 10, 2012 06:04 PM

North Carolina Airmen Remembered As Heroes

The four North Carolina Air National Guard members killed when their plane crashed earlier this month in the Black Hills while fighting a forest fire were honored Tuesday at a special ceremony in their home state. While most of you didn't know them personally, you did know they died trying to help South Dakotans.

It was an emotional service as the airmen's families, invited guests and members of the 145th Airlift Wing based in Charlotte, North Carolina, paid their final respects.

Lt. Col. Paul Mikeal, Maj. Joseph McCormick, Maj. Ryan David and Senior Master Sgt. Robert Cannon all died on July 1 when their C-130 crashed while fighting a wildfire near Edgemont.

North Carolina's governor said the four knew the dangers of the mission, but were eager to go.

"These four heroes said good-bye to their families, they climbed aboard a plane just ten days ago, just like they had done so many times before when their aircraft left Charlotte.  They were off on another mission," Governor Beverly Perdue said.

During the ceremony, two C-130's did a flyover as the governor presented each widow with an American flag.

Tuesday night they are being remembered as dedicated servicemen who gave their lives doing what they wanted to do: helping others in a time of need.

"These fallen airmen left our ranks.  They are no longer physically with us, but they are not forgotten," one service member said.

Especially to the men and women, who not only worked with them, but called them friends.

"It was very touching.  I knew all the guys.  Very moving and to see two airplanes flying over that just makes everything hit home.  It's hard to deal with we're going to miss them," one service member said.

Two other crewmen were injured. Their names and conditions have not been released.  The cause of the crash is still under investigation.

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