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.