Green Country Mom Proud Of Her Blackhawk Pilot Son

Thursday, April 5th 2007, 5:45 pm
By: News On 6

A U.S. helicopter goes down in Iraq with nine people on board, no one was killed but several troops were injured. While this time everyone survived such crashes have resulted in devastating losses in the past. The News On 6’s Heather Lewin reports that's why each one puts Green Country families of helicopter crews on edge, bracing themselves for the worst.

Ever since he was a little boy Aaron Sutliff dreamed of being a pilot.

"When he said he wanted to go into the military I was really worried,” said Aaron’s mother Shirley Elliott. “But it was 1999 and I thought that's not so bad, he'll get his education out of this, and then of course everything changed."

Sutliff graduated flight school and had his first assignment in Iraq.

"It was very hard at first because some Blackhawks went down when he was over there, early on when he was over there," Elliott said.

None involved Sutliff, but some were in his company, the 101st Airborne. Now, two tours later with a third likely in the fall, Sutliff's gained combat experience, but that doesn't make things any easier on his Mom.

"And at one time I thought, well if it doesn't happen near his base then it's okay, but then I've learned that they fly all over the country, so you just never know," she said.

Elliott says the most frustrating part is the lack of information after a crash. Word from the military is often delayed a day or two, so her only immediate hope is to catch something on the news, where she says she hears just enough to be afraid, but still doesn't know who's involved. Elliott says when casualties occur the military will often turn off internet service on base so no news leaks out before they can notify families.

"So you can't just go and email your son are you okay, cause they can't respond right away," she said.

Still she's grateful for the contact she does have with her son. She's kept every email he's ever written in her scrapbook of his war experiences. And although she's not too happy about him heading back to Iraq, Elliot says she's trying to make the most of the time they have together.

Elliot says she's proud of her son's accomplishments, and she is upset that people who question what's happening in Iraq are being labeled unpatriotic. She says she believes even people who disagree with the war support the troops, like her son, and hope along with her for his safe return.