Emergency landing brings unexpected guests

Published 5:00 am Thursday, May 29, 2003

Butch and Janie Keene received some unexpected, but welcome,guests Monday to start off their Memorial Day with a patriotictheme.

An Army UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter traveling home to Fort Bragg,N.C., from Fort Polk, La., was forced to make an emergency landingafter fog closed in and surrounded it. The helicopter’s crew chosethe Keenes’ pasture as a place to land.

“What a great way to start off a Memorial Day for us,” JanieKeene said. “We heard the helicopter circling around, but couldn’tsee anything until they were practically on the ground because ofthe fog.”

Chief Warrant Officer 3 Reed Greenwood from Michigan climbed outof the helicopter after landing and greeted Butch with a salute,Janie said. He explained their situation and asked if it would beOK for them to stay until the fog lifted.

“Of course we said yes,” Janie said. “It was exciting.”

The Blackhawk was grounded for about two hours, she said, beforeweather reports indicated they could resume their flight.

During that time, however, the Keenes’ two children, Natalie andTravis, were able to explore the helicopter with the pilot andcrewmen Spec. Matt Franklin from Illinois, Spec. Daniel O’Connorfrom Florida and CWO2 Ren’ee Delvalle from Puerto Rico to answertheir questions.

“We went to the Veterans Parade Saturday so the kids were primedfor this,” Janie said with a laugh. “They were so excited and itwas such an opportunity for them.”

The patriotic fever was running high in Natalie, Janie said. Atsome point during their stay, Natalie ran inside their house anddrew a picture of the Blackhawk with the crew inside. She taped asmall flag from the parade to her picture and wrote “God BlessAmerica” on the picture. She gave her picture to the crew when theywere preparing to leave.

“She said she wanted them to have a souvenir of their visit,”Janie said and smiled. “It was so cute.”

The crew, members of the 82nd Airborne Division, had been onmaneuvers at Fort Polk for a month and were returning home.