"Looking heavenward you cannot help but shed a tear... mournful... lonesome... a hole that screams out almost as loudly as the roar of the engines that pass overhead."
Last November, I posted about a downed F-16 pilot, here and here. My commander, a Viper pilot himself, mentioned Maj. Gilbert today in a commander's call, amid talks of deployments and awards, that we remember the bravery and sacrifice that we are called to. Lex, channeling Paul Harvey, has the rest of the story.
Gilbert, 34, of the Litchfield Park area, was trying to head off an attack by insurgents on ground troops and the crew of a downed Army helicopter 20 miles northwest of Baghdad…
Gilbert carried out one strafing run against the enemy vehicles, striking a truck with his 20mm Gatling gun before pulling out only 200 feet from the ground, said the head of the accident investigation board, Brig. Gen. David L. Goldfein.
Gilbert flew even lower on his second strafing run and was unable to pull up before he crashed, Goldfein said. Investigators concluded that he died instantly.
His actions helped save the lives of the helicopter crew and other coalition ground forces, Goldfein said.
Gilbert was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross with Valor.
He chose to attack at a very low altitude because he was concerned about making sure he was correctly identifying enemy vehicles trying to merge with civilian vehicles, Goldfein said. Gilbert attacked from a difficult angle because he apparently wanted to bring fire on the enemy vehicles quickly to protect the ground troops, who were in a very perilous situation.
And from Lex himself "Good people on the ground were taking hits, so Maj. Gilbert deliberately stepped outside of the box to help them. He saved some lives that day, but paid for it with his own. And though his remains have not yet been recovered, in a very real way he came back on his shield. Hand salute. Ready, two. Carry on."
Here's a toast brother. Godspeed.