Apache pilot killed in February to get DSC

Apache pilot killed in February to get DSC

By Matthew Cox - Staff writer

Monday Nov 12, 2007

Chief Warrant Officer 4 Keith Yoakum should have landed his AH-64 Apache gunship right after taking heavy fire over Baghdad.

Instead, he chose to help his wingman attack the enemy position.

Yoakum and his fellow crew member, Chief Warrant 2 Jason G. Defrenn, died on that Feb. 2 reconnaissance mission.

On Veterans Day, the Army will honor Yoakum’s sacrifice by presenting his wife, Kelly, with a posthumous award of the Distinguished Service Cross, the nation’s second highest award for heroism in battle.

The ceremony will take place 1 p.m. Sunday at Gibbel Park in Yoakum’s hometown of Hemet, Calif.

Yoakum will be the eighth soldier to be awarded the DSC since the war on terror began. Defrenn was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, a Bronze Star for Service and a Purple Heart.

Yoakum, 41, was flying with other aviators from A Company, 1st Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment, when enemy fighters attacked his Apache with machine-gun fire.

“Yoakum’s aircraft was seriously damaged by heavy machine-gun fire, which required him to land immediately,” the DSC citation reads. “Without regard for his own safety … Yoakum chose to remain with his wingman to destroy the enemy. With his main gun inoperable, his only option was to climb in altitude and then dive while firing his Apache’s rockets. Ultimately, the aircraft succumbed to its battle damage and crashed.”

Yoakum’s wife and their two daughters, Katelynn, 17, and Kirstee, 15, will travel from their home in Coffee Springs, Ala., to attend the ceremony.

The Yoakums would have been married 18 years Feb. 14, Kelly said.

“It still doesn’t feel real,” she told Army Times. “He was deployed so much. It just seems like one of these days he is just going to pull up.”

But she made it clear her family is happy that her husband’s dedication to being a soldier is going to be recognized.

“It’s still a very positive thing even though we are not going to see him again for however long God has in his plan,” she said. “I’m extremely proud of him. He told me he wanted to give his Army career 110 percent, and he wouldn’t have it any other way.”


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