For family of soldier, `a lot of hope'

Eastern Shore native missing since Iraq crash

January 28, 2004|By Julie Bykowicz and Ryan Davis | Julie Bykowicz and Ryan Davis,SUN STAFF

Although her husband had flown many dangerous nighttime missions, Katie Mooney and her family didn't think twice when they heard radio reports that a helicopter had crashed Sunday in Mosul, Iraq.

They had talked with 1st Lt. Adam G. Mooney, an Eastern Shore native, and had seen him with their own eyes through a Web camera hours earlier. He called to put their minds at ease.

But before dawn Monday, a group of military officers knocked on Katie Mooney's door in Arkansas to tell her that her 28-year-old husband's helicopter had crashed during a search-and-rescue mission over the Tigris River. The military recovered the helicopter and listed Mooney as missing.

Now Adam Mooney's family is struggling with the uncertainty of what happened to him - and just what to tell the young soldier's 8-year-old daughter.

"He has not passed away," Katie Mooney said yesterday. "He's missing in action."

Adam Mooney and Chief Warrant Officer Patrick D. Dorff, 32, of Minnesota had been sent Sunday in an OH-58 Kiowa Warrior helicopter to search for the last soldier missing from a capsized watercraft. Three American soldiers survived the boat wreck, but two Iraqi police officers and a translator died.

Witnesses to the helicopter crash said the Kiowa Warrior - one of two taking part in the evening search - hit power lines and plummeted into the river. Neither Adam Mooney nor Dorff has been heard from since.

"It's not final," his father, B. Patrick Mooney, said yesterday. "There's still a lot of hope."

Adhering to one of Adam Mooney's wishes, the family has not told his 8-year-old daughter about the wreck.

"He didn't want her to know anything until there was closure," said his father-in-law, Bart Townsend. "Until there was no chance he'd be coming home."

More than 500 U.S. service members, including five Maryland residents, have died in Iraq since the United States and its allies began the war March 20.

Relatives said Adam Mooney had always wanted to fly. He earned his pilot's license about the same time he earned his driver's license.

"I think he liked the high of it," his father said.

The 1993 Cambridge-South Dorchester High School graduate grew up in the Dorchester County home where his father lives.

Adam Mooney attended the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, left for Fort Hood, Texas, to enlist in the Army, earned a scholarship and returned to the university, where he graduated in 2000 with a degree in aviation management science.

His daughter lives with his first wife in Salisbury, and he and his second wife lived together near Fort Drum, N.Y. Relatives said his daughter was precious to him, and that he called her several times a week from Iraq.

"Adam was very devoted to his family," said Mooney's stepfather, Norman McCray of Martinsburg W.Va. "I said `was.' I shouldn't say that. He is very devoted to his family."

Townsend said he was tickled when Adam Mooney asked his permission before proposing to Katie. The two were married nearly a year ago.

Having served in the Air Force for four years, Townsend said he explained to his daughter that marrying a soldier comes with the risk of heartache.

Adam Mooney was dedicated to serving his country, relatives said. If his unit hadn't been sent to Iraq, he told his father, he was going to volunteer to go there.

"He's a patriot," Townsend said. "That was his thing. That was what he wanted to do."

On Oct. 26, his unit - 3rd Squadron, 17th Calvary, 10th Mountain Division based in Fort Drum - was deployed to the Middle East, a Fort Drum spokesman said.

His wife moved in with her parents in Conway, Ark., to study nursing while he was away.

Through phone calls, e-mails and a Web camera, Adam Mooney kept his family apprised of his whereabouts in Iraq.

His father said he flew helicopter missions to provide security and intelligence for ground troops.

"It was that ultimate professional challenge," B. Patrick Mooney said.

At the time of his disappearance, Adam Mooney's family was just getting over a scare. At least one helicopter crashed Friday, and they didn't hear from him for several hours. But then the calls came.

At 2 a.m. Saturday, he dialed his mother in West Virginia: "I want you to hear my voice and know I'm OK," he told her.

He phoned his father in Cambridge.

And he linked up with his wife and her parents in Arkansas through the Web camera.

"We were so relieved," his father-in-law said. "It's the not knowing that's the worst part. That's why these few days have been so hard."

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