KIWALIK, Alaska -- Alaska Army National Guard Soldiers assigned to 1st Battalion, 207th Aviation Regiment and several other units, transported the headstone and cross of retired Command Sgt. Maj. and Vietnam War veteran Thomas Sherman from Nome to Kiwalik via a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter, July 14.
The Sherman family has a rich history of service in the National Guard and the U.S. military, with several immediate and extended family members who are veterans.
Thomas Sherman was an aviation mechanic and crew chief in the U.S. Army after being drafted during the Vietnam War in the mid-1960s. He performed maintenance on the American Bell UH-1 Huey helicopter that predates the UH-60 Black Hawk. He re-enlisted with the Guard 20 years after he left the active duty Army and served in the Alaska Army National Guard in Nome until he retired.
Staff Sgt. Cory Reed, an infantryman with Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 297th Infantry Regiment and Military Funeral Honors lead for the AKNG, requested aviation support on behalf of the family in late June. The Alaska National Guard authorized the flight and transportation of Sherman’s veteran headstone during a scheduled training mission.
“Headstones are provided by the federal government at no cost to honorably discharged veterans,” said Verdie Bowen, director of the Alaska Office of Veterans Affairs. “There was no commercial service to get one to Kiwalik through the postal service, so it was sent to Nome and then transported after request for assistance and coordination through the National Guard.”
The Sherman family owns the burial allotment in Kiwalik, where their deceased family members rest. They hope to return there in the future, to spread Sherman’s ashes over the land where his memorial now stands.
“It was an honor to be part of this mission,” said 1st Lt. Jared Scheler, a pilot who flew the mission and commander of the Nome Army Aviation Facility. “It feels great to give back to a family who has given so much, with a long and pronounced history in the military.”
Nome Guardsmen Spc. Donald Lincoln and Staff Sgt. Chris Thomas volunteered for the memorial detail and were responsible for loading, securing and unloading the headstone and cross from the helicopter.
In a memorial service for Sherman in Kiwalik, Reed and Thomas unfurled and presented the flag to Sherman’s nephew, retired 1st Sgt. Stacey Greene, while Lincoln played the bugle call “Taps.”
“I grew up less than 40 miles from Kiwalik in Deering and I’ve spent a lot of time with the Sherman family,” Lincoln said. “I am very thankful and appreciative of them and it’s great to be able to lend a hand in their time of need.”
Greene served in the Alaska Army National Guard for 21 years before retiring as a first sergeant assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company of the 297th Infantry Support Battalion in Nome. He deployed to Kuwait in 2006 and served under Sherman at the beginning of his enlisted career.