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By Capt. Travis Mueller
A new helicopter training landing pad at Muir Army Airfield was dedicated to Chief Warrant Officer 3 Matthew Ruffner and Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jarett Yoder during a ceremony here, Sept. 17, 2022.
The two pilots were killed April 9, 2013 when the AH-64 Apache helicopter they were flying crashed during a flight mission in Nangarhar Province, Afghanistan. They were serving on a combat deployment with Bravo Company, 1-104th Attack Reconnaissance Battalion, 28th Combat Aviation Brigade during Operation Enduring Freedom.
The landing pad was dedicated in remembrance of the sacrifice of these two Pennsylvania National Guard Soldiers and the ceremony was held to also honor the Gold Star Families, or families who have lost a loved one in military service.
“Today, here on Muir Army Airfield, we memorialize Matt and Jarett’s memory so that all Pennsylvania Guard aviation professionals will tell their story and forever remember them and their patriotic service to our Commonwealth and nation.” said Maj. Gen. Mark J. Schindler, the Adjutant General of Pennsylvania.
In addition to Schindler, the Gold Star Families were joined by former unit members and friends, current brigade leaders as well as distinguished visitors that included Pennsylvania National Guard senior leaders and former adjutants general.
The landing pad will include a plaque indicating the pilots’ names. The Ruffner and Yoder families each received a replica plaque.
“Anytime a pilot is going to land on the Gun 23 pad, Matthew’s and Jarett’s call sign will be spoken out loud, always keeping their memory alive, and maybe prompting young pilots to want to know why the pad is dedicated to them,” said Diane Ruffner, mother of Matthew Ruffner.
Due to the somberness of the ceremony and out of respect for the Gold Star Families, the event was closed to the public. However, the landing pad can be viewed from Fisher Ave. on the southeast end of Muir AAF. The families hope this landing pad will encourage people to remember their fallen loved ones, learn about them and honor their sacrifice.
“On April 9, 2013 they became fallen heroes,” said Col. Michael Girvin, current commander of the 28th ECAB. “Words cannot express the level of gratitude we have for the Ruffner’s and Yoder’s for Matt’s and Jarett’s ultimate sacrifice and service to this great nation and commonwealth.”