Photo: ODA-726 team brothers Cecil and Joff, Helmand, Afghanistan, May 2007.
“Securing the crash site became the priority. We did not know the number of enemy we would be facing. Enemy continued to move towards the site. It became a race between the enemy and us to the crash site. The firefight became more intense. Some of the vehicles were disabled due to enemy fire. We continued to move. We entered the site.
“We secured the site and the enemy intensified their engagement with us. As the CH-47 rounds were cooking off, as the fire of the crash was intensifying, as the enemy rounds were impacting all over us, and the smell of the fumes and bodies burning was assaulting our senses — our JTAC called Danger Close air to ground engagements to stop the enemy from overrunning our position. Thanks to one of the Apache helicopters providing support, we were able to gain control of the situation.
“Stu, the pilot, is a HERO. His story of valor would never have been told to Senior Official military or to America, if not for a reporter named Alex. She tracked Stu down and gained his trust, and got him to talk about it for the first time. Alex was supposed to be on that CH-47.
“Stu’s valor and skills saved the lives of my ODA and other soldiers. Stu maneuvered his Apache low to the ground in order to draw fire from the enemy, not once or twice, but numerous times. Additionally, Stu completely disregarded his own safety. After running low on fuel, he decided to continue providing air support until additional air support came on station.
“As I come to the end of this short writing, I would like to share something. Last year on the anniversary, my family almost lost me. But, the angels who protect our country, who give us this most precious thing called life, protected me that day. They allowed me to continue to live, and continue to serve with the best of the best, the Green Berets.
“I can never un-see what I have seen. I can never undo what I have done. As veterans, we will always carry war blood on our hands. We will always have scars from twenty years of war. But, I ask all veterans to get help and use the resources available for you.
“Remember, our flag does not fly because the wind moves it. It flies with the last breath and ultimate sacrifice of each soldier who died protecting it. God bless America. God bless all the families of the Flipper-75 Crew. DOL.”
Photo: Apache pilot Stu Pitou, Alex Quade and Joff, Ft.Bragg, NC, April 2021.