From an editorial in the Hickory Daily Record on Friday:
Let the names of the four airmen from the North Carolina National Guard who died fighting the wildfire in western South Dakota be placed on the list of American heroes.
Lt. Col. Paul K. Mikeal, 42, of Mooresville; Senior Master Sgt. Robert S. Cannon, 50, of Charlotte; Maj. Joseph M. McCormick, 36, of Belmont; and Maj. Ryan S. David, 35, of Boone knew the risks of a hazardous mission. But they and two comrades flew their C-130 tanker into the mouth of a raging beast in an attempt to save the homes and perhaps the lives of people in harms way.
The tanker crashed, and the four heroes lost their lives. At least one, Mikeal, had served in Afghanistan. He and the others knew danger. Dumping retardant on a massive wildfire is not an easy task. The C-130 is a behemoth craft, and wildfires the size of the White Draw fire in South Dakota can play havoc with flying conditions.
They gave their all for the sake of others. They are heroes. They left behind families, loved ones and friends.
Their deaths are tough on everyone in the National Guard, but nobody is backing down from the risks that come with serving.
The Air Guard is a family, and right now we are family focused, said Gen. Tony McMillan, commander of the 145th Airlift Wing, North Carolina Air National Guard. Yes, we continue to grieve, but we are ready for any mission that may come our way, he said.
Thats the attitude of heroes.
There are four new names on the roll of Americas defenders who made the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty. We wish it was not so, but we understand that without heroes like Paul Mikeal, Robert Cannon, Ryan David and Joseph McCormick, we would not have the great nation we enjoy today.