MAY 27, 2022 – The New York National Guard’s headquarters staff marked Memorial Day and remembered those who gave their lives in the service of the United States, with a short ceremony outside the New York State Division of Military and Naval Affairs Headquarters in Latham, New York on Thursday, May 26.
The ceremony featured remarks from Air Force Brigadier General Denise Donnell, the commander of the New York Air National Guard, the commemoration of members of the New York Military Forces who have died —outside of combat— during the past year, and the playing of taps.
In her remarks, Donnell told the story of a Navy officer she knew when she was a Navy officer flying P-3 Orion maritime surveillance aircraft at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island in the 1990s.
Navy Lt. Jonas “Joe” Panik was an intelligence officer who had played football and was a weightlifter at the United States Naval Academy, Donnell said.
“At six foot, six inches, he was larger than life,” Donnell recalled.
He was gregarious and good at his job, she said. He was so good that he was assigned to the staff of the Chief of Naval Operation in Washington, D.C.
And on Sept. 11, 2001, he was on duty there when Americans Airline Flight 77, which had been hijacked by Al-Qaeda slammed into the Pentagon.
“A man who was larger than life and full of life was cut down far too soon,” Donnell said.
Like many other Americans he gave his life for his country, she said.
She urged her listeners to think about Joe Panik and the others in uniform who have made the ultimate sacrifice, but to still enjoy their picnics and barbecues and day at the beach.
Panik, she said, would have wanted that.
Command Sgt. Major Robert Jenks, Joint Force Headquarters senior enlisted advisor, then read a list of 14 names of New York Military Forces members who have died since last Memorial Day.
The New York Military Forces consists of the New York Army and Air National Guard, the New York Naval Militia and the New York Guard. The latter two are state defense forces whose members augment that National Guard during state missions
Since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, 39 New York Army and Air National Guard Soldiers and Airmen —7 Airmen and 32 Soldiers— have lost their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan. The most recent casualties occurred in 2018 when an HH-60 Pave Hawk rescue helicopter flown by the 106th Rescue Wing crashed in Iraq.
The New York Army National Guard will be deploying more than 2,500 Soldiers on missions overseas later this year, while the New York Air National Guard continually rotates Airmen on missions supporting U.S. and coalition forces.
Story by Eric Durr
New York National Guard