ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — A memorial service was held Friday to honor the three National Guard soldiers who died last month after a helicopter crash in Mendon.
Chief Warrant Officers 54-year-old Steven Skoda of Rochester, 39-year-old Christian Koch of Honeoye Falls, and 30-year-old Daniel Prial of Rochester, were killed when their UH-60 medical evacuation helicopter was on a routine training mission when it crashed in a farmer’s field along West Bloomfield Road near Cheese Factory Road.
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The service — which was not open to the public — was at the Army Aviation Support Facility off of Patriot Way by the Rochester airport.
The facility is where two of the three pilots worked full-time and where unit Soldiers spend a majority of their time, conducting aircraft maintenance, training and flight operations, according to the National Guard.
The service included personal reflections, scripture readings and a silent roll call to commemorate the loss of the three soldiers.
Present Friday were Soldiers of Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, the 171st Aviation Regiment, along with military commanders, leaders and first responders from across the entire area. Also the families and close friends of the fallen. It’s estimated about 400 attended.
“I feel honored to have known Steve, Christian and Dan. In a lot of ways they were the same type of person at different stages of their career and life,” says Col. Michael Charnley, Brigade Commander.
“In life we are defined by our choices. Christian (Koch) loved to fly. It defined him. It was who he was,” said Maj. Chris Gagliardo, a friend of CWO Christian Koch.
“I miss everything about Steve (Skoda) being around. Steve was somebody I saw on a daily basis…that I would seek advice from,” said CWO5 Thomas Grove, National Guard CH-47 Pilot
Grove served with all three of the men. He served the most with Chief Warrant Officer Steve Skoda. He says the loss of these three is a massive hit to their facility—- and the National Guard.
“It’s kind of like we lost the legacy pilot, Mr. Skoda…the current hard-charger, Mr. Koch…and the up and coming, Mr. Prial,” said Grove.
When it comes to the crash and what caused it, Grove says it’s still very difficult for him to talk about.
“It’s an unforgiving machine, it’s a very complex machine,” he says.
These hangars are where two of the three pilots worked full-time, and where unit Soldiers conduct aircraft maintenance, training, and flight operations. The hole now left here for so many…significant.
“The magnitude of this loss can not be understated. It cuts deep in many dimensions– but we will persevere,” said Major Voley Martin, Charlie Company, 1-171 Commander.