DENVER (AP) – The body of a National Guard pilot was returned to Colorado on Wednesday after he was among 38 people killed in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan.
David R. Carter’s flag-draped casket was flown to Buckley Air Force Base in the Denver suburb of Aurora. His wife and two children and other mourners stood silently in a hangar as pallbearers carried the casket from a transport plane to a hearse.
The hearse then drove away, its route on the base lined by thousands of uniformed military personnel.
Col. Chris Petty, who worked with Carter both in Colorado and Iraq, called the show of respect heart-warming.
“We’re part of one big family,” he said. “Thank God this doesn’t happen very often.”
Carter, 47, was a chief warrant officer 4, a full-time Army National Guardsman and an instructor pilot. He lived in Aurora. He was one of two pilots aboard the Chinook helicopter that went down Aug. 6, apparently when it was shot down by insurgents.
The crash is under investigation. The dead included 17 Navy SEALs, five Navy special operations troops who support the SEALs, three Air Force airmen, a five-member Army air crew that included Carter, seven Afghan commandos, an Afghan interpreter and a military dog.
All but two of the SEALs were from SEAL Team 6, the unit that killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan, although military officials have said that none of the crash victims participated in that mission.
People who worked with Carter said they weren’t surprised he was chosen to co-pilot the helicopter carrying the elite SEAL team.
He was “one of the top-trained pilots in Colorado” and could fly Cobra, Huey and CH-47 helicopters, Petty said earlier this month.
“Nobody felt any timidity getting in the back of his aircraft,” Petty said.
PHOTO GALLERY: Aurora Airman’s Body Returns To Colorado
Carter came to Colorado from the Kansas Army National Guard in May 1988, a year after he earned his bachelor’s degree from Fort Hays State University in Hays, Kan.
He had logged more than 4,000 flight hours, including 700 in combat. Carter served in Iraq in 2006 and 2007.
This past May, he met Gov. John Hickenlooper at a send-off party for his latest tour in Afghanistan. Carter traveled to Fort Hood, Texas, and had probably been in Afghanistan for 10 to 14 days before he died “doing something he believed in,” Petty said.
On Friday, Carter’s family will hold a memorial service at Easter Hills Community Church in Aurora. Interment will follow at Grandview Cemetery in Fort Collins.
Carter is survived by his wife, Laura, and two children, Kyle and Kaitlen. The family has asked for privacy and has not commented publicly about Carter’s death.
The family has set up a college fund for Kyle and Kaitlen at 1stBank.
– By Dan Elliott, AP Writer
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)