Former Calvert County man among soldiers killed in helicopter crash in Afghanistan

Family seeks to have pilot buried at Arlington

February 03, 2003|By Laura Cadiz | Laura Cadiz,SUN STAFF

A former Calvert County man whose lifelong ambition was to become a helicopter pilot was one of four men killed when a U.S. military helicopter crashed in Afghanistan on Thursday.

Chief Warrant Officer Thomas J. Gibbons, 31, who grew up in Prince Frederick, was part of an elite Army aviation team - the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment - based at Fort Campbell, Ky.

The helicopter was on a training mission. Chief Warrant Officer Mark S. O'Steen, 43, of Alabama; Sgt. Gregory M. Frampton, 37, of California; and Staff Sgt. Daniel L. Kisling Jr., 31, of Missouri were also killed in the crash.

The military said it was unsure what caused the crash that killed the men, whose regiment was known as the Night Stalkers, for slipping special forces behind enemy lines. The military said there was no indication of enemy fire.

Gibbons lived in Clarksville, Tenn., with his wife, Kelly, and daughters Lauren, 3, and Emily, 2 months. He graduated from Calvert High School in 1989 and joined the service two years later.

"He always was attracted to the military. He always wanted to fly helicopters," his father, Michael Gibbons Sr. of Huntingtown, said yesterday. "I think he found the service to be the avenue that allowed him to really find who he was and challenge himself."

Gibbons served in Operation Desert Storm with the 101st Airborne Division and took a year off in 1992 after the Army had a reduction in forces. During that year, he lived in Huntingtown and worked as an electrician, but he was not happy, his father said.

Michael Gibbons said he told his son to follow his heart, and he returned to the Army.

"He went in the first time because he thought he loved it and went in the second time because he knew he loved it," his father said. Gibbons earned his pilot wings in 1997 on "the proudest day of his life," his father said.

Michael Gibbons said his son's body was in Germany for an autopsy and is expected to be returned to Fort Campbell, possibly Friday. He said the family is "fighting desperately" to have him buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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