Friends pay tribute to three Kansas soldiers killed in Afghan crash

The Kansas City StarAugust 8, 2011 

Army Reserve Spc. Spencer Duncan was a 2008 Olathe South graduate who at 21 left his Kansas family, his best buddies and his girlfriend because he wanted to serve his country.

He wrote how much he loved his job as a door gunner on a Chinook helicopter. But he also told his friends that in the quiet amid the stark landscape of Afghanistan he missed the Kansas sunsets, lying in a truck bed listening to the radio and cuddling with his sweetie.

Army Spc. Alexander Bennett, 23, had earned a reputation for his pranks on Marines and soldiers, drawing eye rolls from older officers. After a 2009 deployment in Iraq, he moved from the Tacoma, Wash., area to Overland Park to be a flight mechanic in the Army Reserve’s Chinook unit at New Century AirCenter.

Piloting was Chief Warrant Officer 2 Bryan Nichols’ dream, something the 31-year-old Kansas City man wanted from the first day he saw a Chinook hoist itself gracefully into the sky. He studied and became one of his unit’s best, a rising star in its stable of skilled pilots.

The men were among the 30 Americans and seven Afghans who died Saturday morning when their Chinook was shot down in Wardak province west of Kabul on a mission to help Army Rangers in a firefight.

The military released names Sunday, and families in the heartland and across the nation felt the pain of war thousands of miles from the battlefield.

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