Community Heroes: Tri-Cities airman killed in action remembered 10 years later


JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) Tri-Cities native, Senior Airman Benjamin White, paid the ultimate sacrifice at the age of 24 on June 9, 2010.

He was among five rescue airmen who died when insurgents shot down their helicopter, in Afghanistan.

“In the incident, in which Ben was killed, there was a helicopter sign called “Pedro 66″. It was providing air cover for Pedro 67- the other helicopter, which had set down on the ground to pick up a wounded Marine. They took hostile fire, both helicopters, but their tiltroter was shot out and it went into an uncontrollable spin. The pilot was able to get it away from the troops on the ground. When it crashed, four were killed instantly and the co-pilot died about three weeks later. Out of a crew of seven, they lost five crew members on the 7-man crew on Pedro 66,” Senior Airman Benjamin White’s mother, Brenda Shelton said.

On the week of the 10-year anniversary of his death, his family and community are still paying tribute, hoping to keep this community hero’s memory alive.

A brother, a son, a fiance, and warrior, taken too soon.

“Benjamin was just this beautiful person. He had a beautiful smile. Blue eyes. You could see him across the room and that smile would light up the room. He was somebody who always gave,” Shelton told Pheben Kassahun.

Senior Airman White’s giving spirit led him to the united states air force where he obtained the maroon beret as a pararescuer.

“Their mission is to go in, in any type of environment, whether it’s here in the United States for rescues or out on a deployment. It’s a very grueling and rigorous program. Sometimes they only graduate one person from a class.

Since 2014, his mother, Brenda Shelton, works to ensure her son’s legacy remains across the Tri-Cities, by hosting a rideout with Rolling Thunder and the Dog Tag Brigade.

“They’ve become family because when Ben was brought back, there were probably several hundred bikes that escorted him from the Tri-Cities Airport back to the funeral home,” Shelton said.

Shelton is referencing to this 2010 video on YouTube.

“He had a very strong faith in his Savior, even after he was in Afghanistan. He said, ‘I’m exactly where God wants me to be.’ So, he definitely knew who he served and he felt that he was doing what his purpose was. That’s something that a lot of people live their whole lives and maybe never feel,” Shelton said.

Shelton said this is the least she could do for her son since he put himself in harm’s way to preserve our way of life.

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Shelton said, “Throughout the year, try to make sure that his name is spoken because you know, there’s a saying, ‘A man dies twice. He dies when the breath leaves his body. He dies the second time when no one speaks his name any longer.”

Senior Airman white followed the motto “These things we do, that others may live”, and for that, he is our community hero.

He is a Science Hill High School graduate and has ties to Carter and Unicoi counties.

The motorcycle ride out will take place this Saturday at 11 a.m.

The group will start at the Elizabethton American Legion Post 0049 and is open to the public.

Elizabethton American Legion Post 0049
111 South Watauga Avenue
Corner of Watauga and G street
Elizabethton, TN 37643

The group will ride by Wautaga Lake to Mountain City, and back the American Legion Post 0049, for refreshments.

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If you know someone who makes our community a better place to live, we want to hear from you! Nominate them to be an ABC Tri-Cities Community Hero! Click here and scroll to the bottom of the page to nominate them.

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