Veterans Day celebration includes dedication for fallen Flight for Life pilot |

Veterans Day celebration includes dedication for fallen Flight for Life pilot

From left, Mary Henrikson, David Lennon, Chris McDonald, Rob Dewing, Rod Balak, Donald VanDyne, Mike Young and Loren Courtney are honored for thier military service at a Veterans Day ceremony at St. Anthony Summit Medical Center.
Greg Ellison / |

This Veterans Day was especially poignant at St. Anthony Summit Medical Center, with a dedication ceremony to honor multiple hospital associates who have served in a branch of the military. The gathering also provided an opportunity to reflect on the life and contributions of the late Patrick Mahany, while also unveiling a wall of photographs in the emergency room remembering the much beloved Flight For Life pilot.

Mahany, an experienced Army pilot, perished on July 3 when the Flight For Life helicopter he was piloting crashed directly after taking off. Friends and family of his shared tearful memories during Wednesday’s ceremony.

Flight For Life pilot Loren Courtney, described him as a veteran, colleague and friend.

“I’m proud to be a veteran and very happy to have served my country,” he said.

A Flight For Life team member with Mahany for 25 years, Courtney said his departed friend left his mark on those whose lives he touched.

“You guys were his second family,” he said.

Donald Van Dyne, who enlisted in the Marines in 1953, said Mahany had a way of putting others at ease.

“He was a very outgoing person,” he said. “He made everyone feel comfortable,”

Mahany’s wife, Karen, gave an emotional speech that left no one in the in the room with dry eyes.

“I’m the luckiest girl in the world that he chose to love me; that he chose to love us all,” she said.

Talking after the ceremony, Van Dyne said he had developed a deep bond with Mahany through their time together at the hospital and felt a special connection as they had both seen action in Vietnam.

“I’ve known a lot of people in my life, but he was my hero,” he said.

Van Dyne, who volunteers at the hospital, said it felt fantastic to be recognized for his military service, and he is proud to continue a family tradition.

“My father was a career officer in the Army,” he said.

During his six years in the military, he was stationed at the U.S Embassy in Geneva and later in Paris.

“The Marine Corps was the finest part of my life,” he said.

Among other stops, Van Dyne was also stationed at Los Alamos during a nuclear bomb test. He recalled being in a trench within close proximity to the blast.

“When the bomb went off, you could see the sound wave,” he recalled.

The next day while walking around the test site, Van Dyne said he witnessed sand that had turned to glass. This chemical process requires temperatures in excess of 3,200 degrees Fahrenheit.

Fellow veteran Michael Young, a mechanical engineer at St. Anthony’s, said those who serve their country gravitate to danger instead of shying away.

“You know people in the military because we run towards it,” he said.

He described Mahany as a “character and a great dude,” who was quick witted.

“He set standards and we lived up to them,” he said.

Noting that Mahany was shot down three times during the Vietnam War, Courtney said the experiences left an indelible mark on his departed friend.

“That’s probably why he was as crazy as he was,” he chuckled.

Karen Mahany noted her husband’s grave includes the Bible verse, John 15:13 which reads, “Greater love has no man than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

“I tell him all the time that he was wonderful, and I couldn’t be more proud of him,” she said.

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