ND/AFA’s Special Tribute to Fallen Airmen

Jolly 38.jpg

When Air Force and Notre Dame football players butt heads Saturday afternoon in front of a sellout, Veterans Day crowd in Colorado Springs, and a national television audience on College Sports TV, their helmets will sport a tribute to Airmen past and present who’ve sacrificed for freedom.

Specifically, all Falcon and Fighting Irish head gear will feature the six-toe, Jolly Green feet logo representing the Air Force rescue community, to honor the 12 Airmen of the 66th Rescue Squadron who died in the Sept. 3, 1998 mid-air collision of two HH-60 helicopters near Nellis Air Force Base, Nev.

One of the dozen who perished was 1992 Academy graduate Gregg Lewis, whose father Bill is the assistant head football coach at Notre Dame.

“Gregg Lewis was a proud member of the 66th Squadron,” Air Force head football coach Fisher DeBerry said. “This day to honor him and his dad should bring additional pride to all those who now proudly serve in the 66th and in the memory of those who lost their lives serving this great squadron.”

Current 66th RQS commander, Lt. Col. T. J. Porterfield, was at Nellis at the time of the mishap, although not in the unit.

“It was a very traumatic event for the families, the unit and our community,” the colonel recalled.

Colonel Porterfield then amplified Coach DeBerry’s sentiments.

“We are honored and deeply touched by this tremendous gesture on the part of both teams,” he said. “Current members of the 66th Rescue Squadron are reminded everyday of the sacrifice made by these 12 heroes on Sept. 3, 1998, as they pause by the memorial in front of our unit. We keep those 12 fallen warriors, as well as two more lost in separate mishaps, close in our thoughts and prayers to this day and are grateful to honor them all this Saturday.”

During the game photos of Gregg Lewis will be shown on the Falcon Stadium scoreboard screen as a salute to the fallen Academy grad, who like fellow members of the Air Force rescue community served “so others may live.”

The game marks the first time Notre Dame has ever worn a logo of any kind on its gold helmets.

23 Responses to “ND/AFA’s Special Tribute to Fallen Airmen”

  1. The Hammer Says:

    Great Article. The only other decal I remember on our helmets is the black “Moose” sticker that was warn for the Cotton Bowl on January 1, 1993, to remember the recently deceased former AD, Moose Krause. The sticker was centered between the facemask screws on the front of the helmet (technically the sticker was on the facemask, I suppose).

  2. Wertzy Says:

    Hammer, you are correct on the sticker. The sticker was actually on the little pad that wraps around the middle top of the helmet. So I guess it was not really on either

  3. JVH Says:

    DIdn’t we add the American flag to the helmet after 9/11?

  4. The Hammer Says:

    I just read the Ivan Maisel article about helmet painting. I didn’t realize that we went to two helmets per player a few years ago (game and practice helmets). This makes the painting much easier, as the managers don’t have to wait until Thursday/Friday night.

    I always enjoyed watching Vacco, Chevy, Wertzy, etc… staying up all night (sober) preparing helmets for walk-ons who weren’t close to seeing the light of day on the practice field. Of course, they also did BY’s and Flanagan’s helmets, which had craters the size of superballs after a game.

  5. Wertzy Says:

    That has been there since at least the 90s

  6. JVH Says:

    Should the IRT incorporate the Jolly Green Giant feet in its new logo?

  7. Fredo (Chicago) Says:

    The Helmet Project at nationalchamps.net also disagrees with the statement regarding “the first time ND has ever worn a logo of any kind on its gold helmets…”

    The shamrock helmet logo was introduced in 1959 by head coach Joe Kuharich (who also brought back blue uniforms to Notre Dame after an absence of many years); it was used through the 1962 season and replaced with white numerals the following year. Ara Parseghian brought back plain gold helmets in 1964 and the team has continued to use those ever since, which make this the longest-running unchanged helmet design among the NCAA Division I-A colleges.

  8. Wertzy Says:

    Nice work, Fredo

  9. Nate Says:

    Guys, this is awesome. As an ND grad and a service member, I’m continually impressed with Charlie and ND, and how they respect and honor the Armed Forces in ways that don’t seem trite or forced. This makes me proud to be a Domer in ways that a simple football game wouldn’t. Thanks for posting this, and thanks, Charlie, for not only a deeply sincere gesture towards the Air Force, but a nice gesture towards one of your own coaches.

  10. JVH Says:

    This is going to be an emotional game for both sides. I would take a game with our service academies over any directional school every year.

  11. Wertzy Says:

    Now, if we could only create a Southbysouthwestern State Military Academy, we would be all set. Kill two birds with one stone

  12. The Hammer Says:

    The closest thing I can find to a directional military academy, Wertzy, is the uber-Southern The Citadel. Fear not, A&M and Pitt had them on their schedules this year.

  13. BurbankSteve Says:

    Sorry, rookie question from a Brit import (and rabid Irish fan). What’s a “directional school”?

  14. JVH Says:

    “directional school” is like Western Illinois, Southwest Missouri State, or Eastern Michigan. Big name schools typically schedule “directionals” to help pad their records. Directional schools are typically smaller schools with terrible football teams. Illinois gets more resources than Eastern Illinois. Michigan has more students than Eastern Michigan.

    Notre Dame is the target of criticism regarding its games against Army, Navy, and Air Force this year. Most Irish fans would rather play the service acadamies than North Texas and Middle Tennessee St.(these guys are so bad they don’t even have a direction. They are just “Middle.”)

  15. PD Says:

    I think they mean the first time a sticker has been worn for an individual game. The shamrock and flag were used for an entire season. This is a one-time tribute and for that it truly is remarkable.

  16. NDAlways Says:

    It’s a very nice gesture by the Irish to one of our truly great national institutions. My cousin was an AF General, and a hero to me when I was quite young. The thought of attending the AFA was a dream .. that changed a few years later, and led to my matriculation at a small Catholic college in northern Indiana.

    Whether or not a sticker has been put on our helmets before is incidental. A solid tribute to some truly great people.
    Go Air Force!
    Go Irish!

    I believe that Yale has had the same helmets since Walter Camp originally designed them (….or, just about!).

  17. Sloop John B Says:

    I think we should go back to leather helmets with the dark strap across the the front and side. Or at least make them look like that ala Michigan, who kept their colors clear from leather to plastic.

    The plastic helmets were introduced in the fifties when I was there and if you knocked somebody over, you got a little green shamrock pasted on your helmet. You know, like the buckeyes do.

    Yeah, wow, look at that guy, he must be a hero!

    The Golden helmet anew blended with the golden dome, but, shoot, I always thought we looked a little like the Navy guys running around.

  18. Duerr Says:

    JVH – Great site. Can’t believe I didn’t know about it. I’ve got a lot of catching up to do on the “back issues”…

  19. JVH Says:

    Thanks, Duerr. It’ll be nice having you around.

  20. NDAFArly Says:

    The six-toed figure you are talking about is the logo for Air Force Special Operations. it is for the Jolly Green Giant, the nickname given to the Helos flown by Air Force Special Operations during Comabat Search and Rescue. It is the logo the Air Force Special Tactics wear. Many PJ’s have this tattoed somewhere on their bodies. I was in comabt rescue in the Air Force and this is a very serious thing. The Air Force Special Operations in the Air Force hold this logo at the highest esteem. PJ’s (Para-Rescue Jumpers) and CCT (Comabat Control Teams) are among th ehighest skilled special operators in the world and the logo is something we use to signify how proud we are to serve in these elite units. The fact that it is veterans day and this airman died serving in this unit does warrant this gesture. Do a little research on the Jolly Green Giant feet and the men it represents and maybe that will change your mind. As always, Air Force Special Tactics… First there, so others may live.

    This gentleman was a pilot, but other Special Tactics Airman (PJ’s, CCT’s) were also aboard. In case you don’t know what these guys are, PJ’s and CCT’s are the Air Force equivalant to the Army Special Forces, Navy Special Warfare (SeALs)teams. PJ’s rescue downed pilots, or any other servicemembers, behind enemy lines through any means necessary, via Air, Sea or Land. CCT’s are advanced forward air controllers that are always the first special operators into combat to set up drop zones, cll in air strikes, air traffic control or set demolitions, all in the enemies back yard. AF STS’s don’t get teh media attention that others get, but trust me, it is among the hardest (highest wash out rate in all the military) and longest (18 months pipeline once accepted) in the military. The training consists of all speciality schools in the military including…Basic Jump, Military Freefall HALO (High Altitude Low Opening), Combat Divers Course (SCUBA), Survival School, Water egress training, Indoc (the worst 10 weeks of your life), also Combat medic course and recovery specialist school for PJ’s and Air Traffic control school and Comabt controllers course for CCT. All of these schools are mandatory before you even finish teh pipeline and go to your unit, where it really gets tough. I hope that has help some of the skeptics to understand the gesture. And for teh ones who agreed with the gesture, thank you.

  21. JVH Says:

    Thanks for the excellent post. You’ll find nothing but the utmost respect for Air Force here. I am extremely grateful that ND has the opportunity to show respect to these fallen airmen and the Air Force Special Ops.
    I’m not sure where you got the idea of skepticism. Most, if not all, the people here are very excited about the logo and what it represents.
    Thanks for stopping by and thank you for your service to this country.

  22. NDAFArly Says:

    The idea of skepticism wasn’t for you guys here, I originally posted this (with a few nasty comments) to a gentleman on teh commetns page below teh story on Blue Gray Sky. He made a comment about how the situation didn’t warrant the logo on the helmet. He said “I’m sorry for the his son’s death (Coach Lewis), but I don’t see any reason to put the logos on teh helmets.” He called them logo “black-toed” along with a comment about it. I explained that it is green, not black and had a few words for him I didn’t post one here. I guess I forgot to pull some of the other comments on here, but was just trying to give a better understanding of the logo, and who it stands for. I am born and raised in Indiana and a huge Irish fan, so this game is always tough for me. Don’t tell my AF friends, but I always root for ND.

  23. Sgt. Emanuel Says:

    As a former member of the 66th Combat Search and Rescue Squadron, this is an awesome tribute to some guys who have a really tough job and were killed training to do what they do. It goes to show how dangerous even the training is.