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Remembering 'Rican 68'

Valeria Colon, daughter of Master Sgt. Victor Colon, poses for a portrait next to a tree planted in her father’s honor after a memorial ceremony May 2, 2019, in Port Wentworth, GA. The event paid homage to the lives of the nine Puerto Rican Air National Guard Airmen who lost their lives when their C-130 Hercules, assigned to the 156th Airlift Wing, crashed May 2, 2018.

Valeria Colon, daughter of Master Sgt. Victor Colon, poses for a portrait next to a tree planted in her father’s honor after a memorial ceremony May 2, 2019, in Port Wentworth, GA. The event paid homage to the lives of the nine Puerto Rican Air National Guard Airmen who lost their lives when their C-130 Hercules, assigned to the 156th Airlift Wing, crashed May 2, 2018.

A Port Wentworth firefighter climbs down a ladder after securing the U.S. flag at a memorial ceremony May 2, 2019, in Port Wentworth GA. The event paid homage to the lives of the nine Puerto Rican Air National Guard Airmen who lost their lives when their C-130 Hercules, assigned to the 156th Airlift Wing, crashed May 2, 2018.

A Port Wentworth firefighter climbs down a ladder after securing the U.S. flag at a memorial ceremony May 2, 2019, in Port Wentworth GA. The event paid homage to the lives of the nine Puerto Rican Air National Guard Airmen who lost their lives when their C-130 Hercules, assigned to the 156th Airlift Wing, crashed May 2, 2018.

A marquee displays a tribute message to the Airmen of Rican 68 May 2, 2019, on the city line of Port Wentworth, GA. The event paid homage to the lives of the nine Puerto Rican Air National Guard Airmen who lost their lives when their C-130 Hercules, assigned to the 156th Airlift Wing, crashed May 2, 2018.

A marquee displays a tribute message to the Airmen of Rican 68 May 2, 2019, on the city line of Port Wentworth, GA. The event paid homage to the lives of the nine Puerto Rican Air National Guard Airmen who lost their lives when their C-130 Hercules, assigned to the 156th Airlift Wing, crashed May 2, 2018.

1st Lt. Felix Betancourt, 198th Airlift Squadron pilot, attends a memorial ceremony May 2, 2019 in Port Wentworth, GA. The event paid homage to the lives of the nine Puerto Rican Air National Guard Airmen who lost their lives when their C-130 Hercules, assigned to the 156th Airlift Wing, crashed May 2, 2018.

1st Lt. Felix Betancourt, 198th Airlift Squadron pilot, attends a memorial ceremony May 2, 2019 in Port Wentworth, GA. The event paid homage to the lives of the nine Puerto Rican Air National Guard Airmen who lost their lives when their C-130 Hercules, assigned to the 156th Airlift Wing, crashed May 2, 2018.

Senior Master Sgt. Roger Parsons, 116th Air Control Wing public affairs specialist, kneels at a tree planted in memory of a fallen Airman during a memorial ceremony May 2, 2019, in Port Wentworth, GA. The event paid homage to the lives of the nine Puerto Rican Air National Guard Airmen who lost their lives when their C-130 Hercules, assigned to the 156th Airlift Wing, crashed May 2, 2018.

Senior Master Sgt. Roger Parsons, 116th Air Control Wing public affairs specialist, kneels at a tree planted in memory of a fallen Airman during a memorial ceremony May 2, 2019, in Port Wentworth, GA. The event paid homage to the lives of the nine Puerto Rican Air National Guard Airmen who lost their lives when their C-130 Hercules, assigned to the 156th Airlift Wing, crashed May 2, 2018.

Military leaders and attendees bow their heads during a memorial ceremony May 2, 2019, in Port Wentworth, GA. The event paid homage to the lives of the nine Puerto Rican Air National Guard Airmen who lost their lives when their C-130 Hercules, assigned to the 156th Airlift Wing, crashed May 2, 2018.

Military leaders and attendees bow their heads during a memorial ceremony May 2, 2019, in Port Wentworth, GA. The event paid homage to the lives of the nine Puerto Rican Air National Guard Airmen who lost their lives when their C-130 Hercules, assigned to the 156th Airlift Wing, crashed May 2, 2018.

Airmen from around the Air Force gathered May 2, 2019, in Port Wentworth, GA, to memorialize the fatal crash of a C-130 Hercules one year ago to the day.

Airmen from around the Air Force gathered May 2, 2019, in Port Wentworth, GA, to memorialize the fatal crash of a C-130 Hercules one year ago to the day. Nine members of the Puerto Rican Air National Guard, 156th Airlift Wing, lost their lives in the crash outside Savannah, GA, May 2, 2018.

Luis Espada, brother of Senior Airman Roberto Espada, reads a plaque presented to him by officials from the city of Port Wentworth, GA, at the “Rican 68” memorial service May 2, 2019.

Luis Espada, brother of Senior Airman Roberto Espada, reads a plaque presented to him by officials from the city of Port Wentworth, GA, at the “Rican 68” memorial service May 2, 2019. Senior Airman Espada, along with eight other members of the 156th Airlift Wing, lost their lives when their C-130 Hercules crashed outside Savannah, GA, shortly after takeoff May 2, 2018.

Amy Brackett sings “Amazing Grace” May 2, 2019, during a memorial service in Port Wentworth, GA, honoring the nine Airmen assigned to the 156th Airlift Wing who lost their lives in a C-130 Hercules crash May 2, 2018.

Amy Brackett sings “Amazing Grace” May 2, 2019, during a memorial service in Port Wentworth, GA, honoring the nine Airmen assigned to the 156th Airlift Wing who lost their lives in a C-130 Hercules crash outside Savannah, GA, May 2, 2018.

Airmen ruck march along a running trail May 1, 2019, at Joint Base Charleston, S.C. The Airmen participated in a nine-mile ruck march to remember the nine lives lost on May 2, 2018, in a C-130 aircraft crash in Port Wentworth, GA, in which JB Charleston, along with other agencies, provided response and recovery efforts.
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Airmen ruck march along a running trail May 1, 2019, at Joint Base Charleston, S.C. The Airmen participated in a nine-mile ruck march to remember the nine lives lost on May 2, 2018, in a C-130 aircraft crash in Port Wentworth, GA, in which JB Charleston, along with other agencies, provided response and recovery efforts.

Tech Sgt. Wesley Cunningham, 628th Air Base Wing religious affairs specialist, carries the Rican 68 flag during a nine-mile ruck May 1, 2019 at Joint Base Charleston, S.C.
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Tech Sgt. Wesley Cunningham, 628th Air Base Wing religious affairs specialist, carries the Rican 68 flag during a nine-mile ruck May 1, 2019 at Joint Base Charleston, S.C. The Airmen participated in a nine-mile ruck march to remember the nine lives lost on May 2, 2018, in a C-130 aircraft crash in Port Wentworth, GA, in which JB Charleston, along with other agencies, provided response and recovery efforts.

Airmen ruck march along a running trail May 1, 2019, at Joint Base Charleston, S.C. The Airmen participated in a nine-mile ruck march to remember the nine lives lost on May 2, 2018, in a C-130 aircraft crash in Port Wentworth, GA, in which JB Charleston, along with other agencies, provided response and recovery efforts.
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Airmen ruck march along a running trail May 1, 2019, at Joint Base Charleston, S.C. The Airmen participated in a nine-mile ruck march to remember the nine lives lost on May 2, 2018, in a C-130 aircraft crash in Port Wentworth, GA, in which JB Charleston, along with other agencies, provided response and recovery efforts.

Airmen ruck march along a running trail May 1, 2019, at Joint Base Charleston, S.C.
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Airmen ruck march along a running trail May 1, 2019, at Joint Base Charleston, S.C. The Airmen participated in a nine-mile ruck march to remember the nine lives lost on May 2, 2018, in a C-130 aircraft crash in Port Wentworth, GA, in which JB Charleston, along with other agencies, provided response and recovery efforts.

JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C. --

Family members, friends and fellow Airmen came together May 2, 2019, in Port Wentworth, Georgia, to memorialize the lives of the nine Puerto Rican Air National Guard Airmen who lost their lives when their C-130 Hercules, assigned to the 156th Airlift Wing, crashed shortly after takeoff one year ago.

“The agencies involved at local, state and federal levels have done an amazing job from the recovery efforts to comforting the families with this memorial here today,” said Chief Master Sgt. Reginald McPherson, Georgia State command chief. “When you are in the military, you write a blank check to the government… Unfortunately, these nine men paid the ultimate price to this country with their lives.”

The fathers, sons, brothers and Airmen lost—Maj. Jose Roman Rosado, Maj. Carlos Perez Serra, 1st Lt. David Albandoz, Senior Master Sgt. Jan Paravisini Ruiz, Senior Master Sgt. Victor Colon, Master Sgt. Jean Audiffred Rivera, Master Sgt. Mario Brana Ortega, Master Sgt. Eric Circuns and Senior Airman Roberto Espada Gali—are the nine heroes of their homeland known as “Rican 68.”

“Through all the pain and suffering…being here, in this town, with all this love and support, it has really shown us, the family members, a lot of people appreciate the sacrifice they made,” said Luis Espada, brother of Senior Airman Roberto Espada Gali. “The past year has been rough... We didn’t go to his house for Christmas this year like we usually do … That was his birthday.”

Team Charleston Airmen, along with other local, state and federal officials played an important role in the search and recovery efforts of the incident. The tragedy forced the base to mobilize and employ the skills they are constantly training to sharpen. Team Charleston held a memorial nine-mile ruck Wednesday, May 1, 2019 to honor the fallen Airmen.

“I had the honor of being with the 156th in Puerto Rico for 14 years,” said Lt. Col. Cesar Lozada, 315th Airlift Wing pilot. “I worked with, and knew, seven of the nine Airmen and got to work with the other two during humanitarian response efforts after Hurricane Maria. They were good men.”

It can be hard to see any silver-lining within the cloud of despair surrounding “Rican 68,” but after a year, the incident is now being used to train new aircrews and develop more effective contingency response efforts to mitigate incidents such as this one.

“The U.S. military takes tragedies like this and we learn from them and the results the investigations yield. Being a part of both teams and being able to help my ’brothers‘ families in their time of need makes me proud,” said Lozada.

The loss has affected a number of families, including the Air Force family.

“Considering what (Puerto Rico has) been through, between Hurricane Maria and the loss of nine of their finest men, they have a long road to recovery ahead of them. But I think the 156th and the Air Force will play a big part in the healing process moving forward,” said Lozada.

 


 

“Rican 68, A Year From Departure”

By Veda L. Cruz Rivera

 

Today, they are known as RICAN 68.

The nine Boricaus, that in Savannah, Georgia

An aircraft accident, their lives cut short.

For US, they are Carlos, Jose, Eric

Mario, Audi, Jean, Victor, Roberto, David.

 

A tragic event that changed our lives.

But I write these lines, not to speak on what life

has taken from us,

But to remember the good times that each one

of you, nine left behind in our lives.

 

And it’s here that we remember the great legacy

of valor and service that you have left for us.

By helping hundreds of citizens, when the hurricanes

struck, and countless other moments,

that you have safely guarded in your hearts.

 

You left unexpectedly, leaving us without time,

to tell you how significant you are.

Now more than ever, we appreciate each unforgettable

memory, of dreams, disappointments, of many

achievements and feelings.

 

We deeply guard each memory within our hearts,

and today, we want to believe that you are all in

a better place. That you have all left in peace, and

all your dreams have been achieved.

 

RICAN 68, YOU WILL NEVER BE FORGOTTEN.