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Gander Memorial: Remembrance Offers Survivors Healing

FORT CAMPBELL, Ky./ By Maria McClure – Jeremy Rains remembers his father’s love of flying. He remembers he was tall, so tall he was almost too tall to become a helicopter pilot for the U.S. Army.

“He was a big guy, everybody called him a gentle giant,” Rains said. “He was 6-4 and if you look at pictures he is always the tallest guy. I just remember him as a larger than life personality.”

U.S. Army Capt. Terry L. Rains died Dec. 12, 1985, in the crash of Arrow Air Flight 1285 that also killed 247 of his fellow Soldiers and eight crewmembers.

Jeremy Rains was 9 years old.

Reconnecting
The U.S. Army Soldiers – all of whom were attached or assigned to 3rd Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiment, “Strike and Kill,” 2nd Brigade, 101st Airborne Division – were returning to Fort Campbell following a six-month peacekeeping mission to the Sinai Peninsula in the Middle East. After a refueling stop in Gander, Newfoundland, Canada, the plane crashed shortly after takeoff – there were no survivors.

“I take it as a sad part of my life, it is something that I deal with all the time – it never goes away from you,” Rains said.

At the recent remembrance, Rains met U.S. Army veteran Frank Moore, who in 1985 was Spec. 4 Frank Moore, an aviation electrician attached to 1-63rd Forward Aviation Company who dreamed of becoming an Army pilot.

Each year on Dec. 12, now-2nd Brigade Combat Team hosts a remembrance ceremony at Task Force 3-502nd Memorial Park where Families, veterans of 3rd Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiment, and friends come to reconnect, support one another, heal and remember those lost so long ago.

Rains, who today serves as an environmental engineer at the Fort Campbell Directorate of Public Works, has worked on post in various capacities since 2000.

Each Dec. 12 since his return to post, Rains and his wife, Kristina, take the day off from work to attend the remembrance ceremony.

“As I got older, I just wanted to reconnect with my dad,” Rains said.

The annual remembrance ceremony brings together the many people who are connected by tragedy – the widows, the veterans, the parents, the children.

Rains said he has “randomly” met many people at the annual gatherings as well as through his work on Fort Campbell.

“I do enjoy it,” he said of having these chance encounters. “Having those conversations helps me to reconnect, and I have met other children [touched by Gander]. It is nice to know somebody who has gone through the same thing as you have.”

At Wednesday’s remembrance, Rains met U.S. Army veteran Frank Moore, who in 1985 was Spec. 4 Frank Moore, an aviation electrician attached to 1-63rd Forward Aviation Company who dreamed of becoming an Army pilot.

“I really respected your dad,” Moore told Rains. “He was great. One particular story I remember, one week we were training with night vision goggles and he allowed me to go up, wear the goggles and fly with him through the desert.”

Moore said Capt. Rains knew he wanted to become a pilot so he made “me his little mission, to teach me what he could and I was going to Austin Peay [State University] to get my degree so I could go to flight school. After the crash that all changed.”

Healing
Moore was scheduled to be on the Dec. 12, 1985, flight, and his roommate Spec. 4 Gregory Owens was to fly back to Fort Campbell on Dec. 5, 1985.

“We had already turned the airfield over to the [Royal Australian Air Force] so there really wasn’t anything for aviation to do,” Moore said. “One night in the barracks, three, four days before Greg was to come home we were talking. And I was just kind of razing him saying ‘oh it must be nice to go home while I have another week’ and he goes ‘well let’s go talk to Top in the morning and I’ll stay and you can go home.’ So that is what we did.”

Moore was on duty early on the morning of Dec. 12, he and a group of Soldiers were to collect the passports from his buddies returning from the Sinai as they deplaned at Campbell Army Airfield, Fort Campbell.

“I could kind of tell something was wrong – just the way the officers were acting,” Moore said.
The four-man detail was told to go to chow because the plane was delayed.

“We were headed back to the airfield – I will never forget – we were just laughing and joking around, it was Christmastime and we were glad to be home,” Moore said. “A news bulletin came across the radio, all it said was ‘a U.S. military chartered plane crashed in Canada. No details,’ but we knew immediately.”

The group rushed back to the hangar, but still no one told them anything.

“The officer in charge of the hangar at the time told us all to report to [Fratellenico] gymnasium where the reception was going to be held,” he said.

At the gym, Families had gathered to welcome home their Soldiers.

“All I can remember is there was a lot of laughing – nobody there knew,” Moore said. “And my recollection becomes real hazy at this point.”

U.S. Army Col. John Herrling, 2nd Brigade commander, walked to the middle of the gym and announced the plane had crashed.

“He said there were no survivors,” Moore said. “Then I heard a lot of screaming and crying – it is just a haze after that.”

In the days and months after the crash, he struggled to come to terms with what had happened. Moore decided to leave the Army.

“I just needed to go home for a while,” he said. “So I went back to Ohio, I enrolled in Ohio State [University]. I went for maybe a semester and then I dropped out and just got a job and started working. I just tried to figure everything out and lost track of everybody. Needless to say the crash changed many lives – it changed most of my life.”

Years later, Moore reconnected with veterans of 3-502nd Inf. Regt. through a Facebook page – Task Force 3-502nd Rendezvous Point Alpha.

Moore attended the remembrance ceremony for the first time last year. There he met Amy Gallo, a Gander widow who has welcomed many 3-502nd Inf. Regt. veterans into her extended Family. Moore also has reconnected with his roommate’s father, with whom he has shared stories of Spec. 4 Gregory Owens’ life while serving as a peacekeeper in the Sinai Peninsula more than 30 years ago.

“I was always afraid he would hate me because his son died and I’m still here, but it is totally opposite of that,” he said. “The thing about it is for many years I thought it was just me but the more I meet some of the others – the survivors – they all feel the same way. If you sat us all down in one room, every story would be almost identical, just in different ways.”

Although attending the remembrance ceremony honoring his battle buddy is tough, Moore has found healing at Task Force 3-502nd Memorial Park.

“This reconnecting that I have done in this past year has been better therapy than 20 years with the VA ever did for me,” he said. “When I left here 33 years ago I swore I would never come back to Fort Campbell because when you are a 21-year-old kid you just think you can forget it, but it does not go away. Since I came back last year for the memorial I have been back twice over the summer and I visited Greg’s tree and visited Amy. So I guess what I am saying is I stayed away for 33 years, and this is now my fourth time in a year of being back – to me this is like home. I had no intentions of leaving back then, if it would not have been for the crash I would have made the Army a career.”

December 12, 2018