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Three U.S. Army Officers Killed in Black Hawk Crash

ALEX CHADWICK, host:

And now a reminder of some of the costs of war, this month more than 5,000 soldiers of the Army's Third Armored Calvary Regimen start returning to Fort Carson Colorado after their second year-long tour in Iraq. But it's a poignant homecoming. Three officers died in a helicopter crash just a month before their time in Iraq ended. From member station KRCC in Colorado Springs, Eric Whitney has this remembrance of Maj. Douglas Labouff, Maj. Michael Martinez and First Lt. Joseph deMoors.

ERIC WHITNEY (KRCC, Colorado Springs): The chapel at Fort Carson was filled to overflowing for the ceremony honoring the three officers. They were all eulogized as exceptional soldiers, hardworking and dedicated family men.

(Soundbite of bells)

At 43, Maj. Michael Martinez was the oldest. An attorney in the judge advocate general corp, Martinez was born to an Army father and joined himself right out of high school.

Ms. KELLY MARTINEZ (Widow of Maj. Martinez): He loved the Army almost the most in his life except for his family.

Mr. WHITNEY: Martinez's wife, Kelly, also a lawyer says she and her husband were going to go into business together when he left the service.

Ms. MARTINEZ: Our plan was to open a mom and pop law firm and not charge very much because my background was in legal aid. And his background was in public defending. We really had that dream. That was typical Mike to do things together like that and with his family.

Mr. WHITNEY: Thirty-six-year-old Maj. Douglas Labouff was also a family man. The father of two grew up in Southern, Calif. On his daughter's first day of school he worked hard to get leave to be home for the event. Back in Iraq, he played a recorded message from his kids each night before he went to bed. Labouff also loved playing and watching sports. His brother Jim joked that Doug's spirit even helped his beloved Pittsburg Steelers win a crucial playoff game this year.

JIM LABOUFF (Brother to Maj. Douglas Labouff): When the Colts missed that field goal at the end of the game, it was Doug blowing hard from heaven to make sure that that happened.

Mr. WHITNEY: The most junior officer killed was First Lt. Joseph deMoors. The 36-year-old Canadian was fluent in Arabic and joined the US Army in 2001. He worked closely with Lt. Kevin Evans. And though they knew each other for only six months, Evans says deMoors impressed him with his dedication to his family, his work ethic and professionalism.

LT. KEVIN EVANS: He had a concern for the soldiers and he believed in what he was doing over there. You can't speak about that for everyone. And although he was away from his family, he knew what he was doing was the right thing. And faith plays a big part of that, because he was very religious. The Blackhawk helicopter that killed deMoors, Labouff and Martinez also took the lives of five other soldiers and four civilians. It happened late at night in bad weather. And there's no indication enemy fire was a factor. Although Fort Carson has lost a total of 157 soldiers since the war began, multiple deaths in single events have been rare. And the loss of its officers is a tough blow. It's the regimen's deadliest incident since it lost four soldiers in another Blackhawk crash two years ago. For NPR News, I'm Eric Whitney in Colorado Springs. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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