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County reaches out to soldier’s family
Dunedin man dies in helicopter crash in Afghanistan
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Army Spc. Zachary L. Shannon
CLEARWATER – Pinellas County Commissioners sent their condolences to the family of Army Spc. Zachary L. Shannon, who died in a helicopter crash March 11 while supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with them, Commission Chair Ken Welch said.

The U.S. Department of Defense announced March 16 that five soldiers had died March 11 in Kandahar, Afghanistan. No other details were included in the announcement. DOD officials said the incident was under investigation.

Among the dead was Spc. Zachary L. Shannon, 21, of Dunedin. He was assigned to the 4th Battalion, 3rd Aviation Regiment, 3rd Combat Aviation Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division out of Hunter Army Airfield in Savannah, Ga.

Shannon and four others, including a man from Naples, were attached to the Hunter Army Airfield.

Staff Sgt. Steven P. Blass, 27, of Estherville, Iowa and Chief Warrant Officer Bryan J. Henderson, 27, of Franklin, La., also were assigned to the 4th Battalion, 3rd Aviation Regiment, 3rd Combat Aviation Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division.

Capt. Sara M. Knutson, 27, of Eldersburg, Md., was assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 3rd Combat Aviation Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division. Staff Sgt. Marc A. Scialdo, 31, of Naples was assigned to the 603rd Aviation Support Battalion, 3rd Combat Aviation Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division.

Commissioner Susan Latvala said several requests had come in from family and friends of loved ones who had died in recent wars for the county to do something.

“They would like to have a memorial of some sort,” she said.

She said Dunedin has a memorial for veterans and the county has War Veterans’ Park.

War Veterans' Park, which consists of 122 acres, is located on Boca Ciega Bay adjacent to Bay Pines Veterans' Hospital grounds. According to information found on the county’s website, PinellasCounty.org, the park was donated to the county as surplus federal property in 1963 and officially dedicated as War Veteran’s Park in April 1974.

The park features five plaques with official armed forces flags that commemorate each of the military branches of the United States and an equatorial sundial.

The commissioners asked staff to explore ways to honor the memory of Pinellas County’s war heroes.

Welch suggested lowering flags to half-staff.

“I think it’s appropriate to do that,” he said. “They made the ultimate sacrifice. We should recognize them.”

According to the DOD, there were no reports of enemy activity in the area at the time the helicopter crashed. The incident is still under investigation.

Col. Allan Pepin, commander, Task Force Falcon, posted on the 3rd Combat Aviation Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division’s Facebook page March 14, “We mourn the loss of our five Falcon heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice in service to our great nation on March 11, 2013. On behalf of the brigade, I extend my deepest condolences to the families, friends and fellow Soldiers of our fallen.

“We are all affected by this tragic event; but we stand together, resilient, to continue the mission and honor their lives. As we reflect on our fallen, we were all blessed to serve with such patriots and dedicated Dog Face Soldiers. I am proud of them and the tireless efforts of the RC(S) joint team to work to quickly recover our fallen heroes. Proof we live by the Warrior Ethos, ‘I will never leave a fallen comrade.’

“Our departed brothers and sister displayed the courage and strength each day to face the challenges and risks of military service in combat. They are of the proud few who answered the call to duty, especially in a time of war. They stood against the enemies of freedom and defended the highest values of mankind. That is how we remember them.”

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