Walters, Howard Arlen

Howard Arlen Walters, TSgt., USAF (KIA)
December 07, 1969 – November 23, 2003

Howard Arlen Walters was born on 7 December 1969 in Port Huron, MI. He was an honor student who enjoyed sports. He was very popular with his classmates because of his caring nature and sense of humor. Even as a child, he talked about going into the Air Force to become an astronaut because of his love of science and space. Howard graduated from Port Huron High School.

Military Service

Howard joined the Air Force in the fall of 1988. His first operational assignment was the 93rd Munitions Maintenance squadron at Castle Air Force Base where he trained as a weapons load monitor. A short time later he was deployed to Operation Desert Storm and served with a “munitions” troop at Osan Airbase, South Korea and Ghedi Air Base in Italy. In 1995, he became an aerial gunner with the 20th Special Operations Squadron at Hurlburt Airbase, FL, flying in support of Operation Joint Endeavor. Next came three years back at Osan Airbase as a member of the 31st Special Operations Squadron. He then returned to Florida where he became an outstanding instructor for both the future MH-53 and HH-60 gunners. He was serving in Africa when he received the orders that sent him to Afghanistan.

Howard loved the Air Force and planned on making it his career but one thing he loved more was his family, wife, Melissa, and their four daughters.

On 23 November 2003, Howard was a Technical Sergeant assigned to the 20th Special Operations Squadron, Hurlburt Field, FL, which was deployed in Afghanistan. The 20th Special Operations Squadron typically conducts low-level penetration operations into enemy territory, providing air support for ground troops and resupplying Special Forces units.

That day, Walters was serving as an aerial gunner onboard an MH-53 Pave Low helicopter conducting combat operations for ‘Operation Mountain Resolve’ when it crashed nine miles east of Bagram Air Base. A compressor problem caused one of the two engines on the Pave Low to stall, leaving it with one engine operating and too much weight to carry in the thin mountain air. The pilots unsuccessfully attempted to jettison the auxiliary tanks. Then the other engine stalled while they attempted an emergency landing. With all power lost, the helicopter fell from an altitude of about 200 feet onto an uneven river bank where it rolled over and burst into flames. Somehow, eight people managed to survive.

Death and Burial

Technical Sergeant Howard Arlen Walters was killed in action on 23 November 2003 while on a combat mission. Four other men were also killed in the crash.

Howard had always said that if something happened to him, he wanted to be buried at Arlington Cemetery. His desire was fulfilled.

An honor guard preceded a horse-drawn caisson containing a single flag-draped coffin with the remains of the five servicemen killed in the crash. Because their remains were commingled, the five men were buried in a single coffin with a single headstone. The burial, with full military honors, took place on 21 January 2004 at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, VA. The grave is located in Section 60, Site 1821.

The names of the five men (in the order they are listed on the headstone) are:

Sergeant Major Phillip R. Albert, U.S. Army
Master Sergeant William J. Kerwood, U.S. Air Force
Staff Sergeant Thomas A. Walkup, Jr., U.S. Air Force
Technical Sergeant Howard A. Walters, U.S. Air Force
Major Steven Plumhoff, U.S. Air Force

Howard is survived by his wife, Melissa, and their four daughters.

Integrity, Honor, and Respect
Some of the best things cannot be bought, they must be earned

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