Lemoore NAS memorial planned for aviators killed in the line of duty

Plans for a new memorial to commemorate aviators killed in the line of duty are underway at Lemoore Naval Air Station.
April 4, 2014 12:00:00 AM PDT
Plans for a new memorial are underway at Lemoore Naval Air Station.

Lt. Cmdr. Matthew Lowe and Lt. Cmdr. Nathan Williams were killed during a training accident on the base in 2011. Sunday marks the three-year anniversary Lowe and Williams were killed. Now, some of their fellow pilots are in the final stages of putting up a memorial commemorating them and other aviators killed in the line of duty.

Every day, jets land and take off from a runway at Naval Air Station Lemoore. Three years ago, tragedy struck when two of their own died during a training exercise. Friends of 33-year-old Matthew Lowe and 28-year-old Nathan Williams still find their loss unimaginable.

"It's devastating, you know, we know what we do is a risky business but when it actually hits home it's something that you never want to experience again," said U.S. Navy Lt. Cmdr. Erik Kenny.

"Three years ago, I'll always hold that day in my heart, said U.S. Navy Lt. Cmdr. Ben Charles.

Kenny and Charles are now spearheading a fundraising campaign to construct a memorial next to the base, where fellow pilots and the public can pay their respects to not just Lowe and Williams but all Lemoore Navy pilots who've lost their lives in the line of duty.

"NAS Lemoore lost more pilots during Vietnam than any other Navy base around the country but there's no memorial dedicated to those guys," said Kenny.

The 7-foot-tall bronze statue will be of a pilot in full blue collar uniform with a helmet in hand -- as if he just returned from a mission.

"Our goal is to make it larger than life," said Charles. "A lot of people who went before us we hold them in high regard, so we wanted a chance to look up at them."

Charles says people from as far away as Japan have donated to build the memorial, and several local farmers are helping to fundraise. The memorial will be readily accessible to the public, and a place where pilots touching down and taking off will be able to fly by and honor Lowe and Williams and others lost long ago.

"They truly made the room come to life when they walked in, and when we lost them it was a hard time for everyone, but they are not forgotten to say the least," said Kenny. They hope to break ground on the memorial this summer and have it open by the fall. They still need your donations, so if you'd like to donate, visit www.facebook.com/NASLemooreAMA.

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