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MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) -
An Alabama Army National Guard unit received a special gift Friday, one that you don't see very often. It's a tail rotor blade from a downed Blackhawk.
"I still get emotional even 7 years later," admits Lt. Colonel Mark Colvin.
Colvin and the commander presented the blade to the 131st Aviation Regiment during a brief but somber ceremony Friday morning in Montgomery.
Polished, painted and inscribed with the names of the fallen, the crew was assigned to this battalion's sister company in Arkansas. The remains of the 12 soldiers were buried in a single casket at Arlington National Cemetery.
"I knew John Brown," says Sgt. First Class Fred Ganous who was in Iraq at the time. "I was working the night shift and I can just remember how somber it was for everybody," he explained.
The blade is just now getting to the battalion because it took 7 years to go through the process.
"We first had to secure it and then find an artist to do the rendering. It was a logistical issue," Colvin said. The names on the blade don't belong to strangers. "They were my friends. I trained with them and I think I have a good idea what their families went through," Colvin says.
Killed in action were First Sgt. William Warren, 48, Capt. Michael Taylor, 40, Capt. Sean Lyerly, 31 and Sgt. First Class John Brown, 43. Eight other soldiers died, too.
The crew was so well thought of that the Alabama Army National Guard took out an ad in one of the electronic billboards in Montgomery to remember them. One billboard is located on Interstate 85 and Perry Hill Road. The other one is at the Mitylene exit in East Montgomery.
The blade will hang in the foyer of the Aviation Support Facility, a constant reminder of the ultimate cost of freedom.