Fallen Heroes of Operation Enduring Freedom

Remembering the servicemembers who died in the service of their country.

Marine Sgt. Nathan P. Hays

21, of Lincoln, Washington.
Hays died as a result of the crash of a KC-130/R aircraft in Pakistan. He was assigned to Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 352 (VMGR-352), the "Raiders," Combined Task Force 58, Marine Corps Air Station, Miramar, California. Died on January 9, 2002.

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I was young, lacking conviction, devoid of direction, and completely depressed the day you decided to say hello and ask me if I wanted to play hockey. I was mortified. After all, what could I offer in friendship to a guy that was on the doorstep of getting his aircrew wings and already had a multitude of friends that adored him? I was just one of several FNGs and mere moments away from washing out at VMGRT-253 altogether. What could you possibly know about or see in me? Why did you suddenly and inexplicably care? I didn't know the answer then, just as I still don't to this day... But I am thankful each and every day that you did. Your words of encouragement and the sincere friendship you supplied pulled me from the depths of my own pathetic self-loathing and vaulted me into a place of comfort, friendship, and excellence. Of course, after the epically savage butt-whuppins I laid down on the court after school each day, I don't doubt that made you rue your decision on more than one occasion...but it was all light-hearted and in the spirit of competition (despite your propensity to ratchet up the intensity when things were going south for your team, haha). The days were filled with fun, camaraderie, and hope. I wouldn't have changed it for the world and I have you to thank for it.

After you guys graduated, both you and Ricky received your orders to Miramar and neither of you could be happier. I remember being thoroughly stoked for you and I even found myself looking forward to joining you guys out in California. Heck, you even made me promise (via my then girlfriend of course, you sneaky bastard!) that I would join you upon my own graduation. At the time, I meant my words and believed that we all would be on the beach sipping cold beers and chasing girls within mere months. But, as with most things in Life, our plans never quite came to fruition. I never even put in for California, instead thinking to get my one year overseas deployment out of the way. After I told you of my decision, you feigned anger and disappointment but eventually acquiesced. You knew that I had to do my own thing and not walk the path of others simply because it worked for them. You understood I needed to go my own way and I always appreciated that. I just wish I could have been able to tell you that in person, but daily prayers lofted your direction will simply have to suffice in the interim.

And so, as I celebrate being a decade removed from my time in the Corps, I can't help but reflect on the decisions, adventures, and people that made my five year stint a memorable and exciting one. And your name pops up more than most as I jog down Memory Lane. You aren't important due to the lengthy time spent together or anything tangible that one can conjure, but rather for the sudden and massive impact you had upon my life in so many facets. 13 years later and that influence and your memory resonates as if you had never left and we were still in our early 20s. Gone but never forgotten or discarded, that is how you will always remain my friend. I thank you again for sharing a brief part of your life with me, as it may have been the most important factor in my life to this day. Thank you and Rest in Peace kind sir. Semper Fidelis, Devil.

Sergeant Anthony C. Duffy, USMC of Denver, CO

"9 January 2013: I continue to be unsure if I deserve what has been given to me through the actions of a man like Nate. I have 5 year old & 3 year old daughters that will grow up knowing Nate as if he was a close Uncle. I know Nate came to be the man he was through the influence of parents that saw him with a combination of pride, love, & respect. I miss him & continuue to make it a point to let people know of his story... who he was...what he did... & why he deserves our respect & admiration. I miss him... I miss him."
Ryan Nelms of San Diego, CA

"Sgt Hays, You inspired me to join the Marine Corps and 8 and half years later im following in the steps of you and taking a trip to Afghanistan. Bitter taste in mouth but so much pride to know ill be along side of you and many other Marines. I think of you everyday and know that upholding the highest standards and traditions of OUR lovely corps is making you smile!!! We miss you!!! We'll never forget the ones that gave all!!!!"
Sgt Scott E. Larkin USMC of Camp Pendleton, CA/ Spokane, WA

"Thank you Nathan for everything. Your influence on the people that were lucky enough to meet you continues to be amazing. You are missed everyday. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you."
Fred Grant of Spokane, WA

"9 January 2009: Nathan, your sacrifice has been an integral portion of how I now live my life. I know I can never repay what you've given me, but I try to make the most of the rare gift I've received. My first daughter Emma, and my soon to be born 2nd daughter Cloe, are God's gifts made possible through the heroics of the man I, and a select few gentleman, knew as Nate "Purple" Hays. When my time here is done, I only hope I've sufficiently honored you, and your family, with the type of life I've led. Your name will always hold a place of honor in my family. I have no words that adequately express my gratitude. I cannot thank you enough for what you've given me. I only hope I deserve it."
Ryan Nelms of San Diego, CA

"Thank you for your ultimate sacrifice. Are thoughts and prayers are with you and your family."
Jeff K of Seattle

"Nathan was a great Marine and will always be in the hearts and minds of many Marines/People. Semper Fi"
Brian Worbington of Iraq/California

"9 Jan 2008: It's been 6 years since we've lost Nathan and not a single day goes by I don't think of him and his family and what he has given me. My wife and I now have a beautiful 10 month old baby girl, which, without Nathan's sacrifice, would not be possible. My girl will grow up knowing the man who is her father's hero. I am forever grateful to Nathan and to the Hays family for their influence on the type of man Nathan had grown to become. Nathan will always be remembered and honored as long as my family name remains. I only hope that the actions in my life will reflect the immense gratitude I have for what Nathan has given me."
Ryan Nelms of San Diego, CA

"Nathan was not only my cousin but he was a friend. Nathan was someone for me to look up to and admire. We miss him dearly and will always love him."
Bryan Grotjohn of Billings, Montana

"My family and I went to a place called the healing field in Tempe Arizona. There was a flag planted for each fallen servicemember and those who died on sept. 11, 2001. We bought the flag with Nathan's name on it.I have explained to my young children about his and his family's sacrifice for us. It has taken me a long time to write to you.It is difficult ot express our gratitude and grief for you. I can only imagine the pain and loss you are suffering, but I know the pride you have for Nathan.We proudly fly Nathan's flag proudly every day. God Bless you and Nathan. Thank you for your sacrafice. I would like to send you a picture of my family in front of Nathan's flag. Please respond to stanjujubee@aol.com if you are interested. Bless you all, The Brocksens"
Stan Brocksen of Fountain hills, Arizona

"May 4, 2007
To the family of Nathan P. Hays. He gave the ultimate sacrifice and will be held in the hearts of Americans forever. I cannot and will not let our fallen heroes be forgotten. My deepest sympathy to you. "Some gave all."
"Don't Let The Memory Of Them Drift Away"
Peggy Childers of Carson City, NV

"In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place: and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch: be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

-Lt. Colonel John McCrae, MD (1872-1918) Canadian Army"
Sapper Nathan J. Hays of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

"You are in our hearts and prayers...today and everyday.

Semper Fi,
The Hanson Family"
The Hanson's of Layton, Utah

"nathan i miss you everyday thanks fro surving our countyr i love you"
lindsay coffman of spokane wa

"Nathan---He is an example for all of us to follow. He was smart, kind, strong and most of all, generous. He was the first person to jump in and help whenever it was needed. My heart goes out to Nathan's family and to all families who have lost a loved one or who still have a loved one overseas. We appreciate all that you do, and we are all indepted to you."
Jeffrey Krause of Seattle, WA

"Nathan -- It has been over five years since you were taken from us and my heart still aches. I miss you dearly and think of you often, but I can honestly say that you have opened my eyes to the fact that life is so unbelievably fragile and unpredictable...for that I am grateful! I sincerely thank you for all the fabulous memories and the laughs that continue to linger in your absence. We will meet up again someday...until then my friend!"
a. erickson of Seattle, Washington

"I miss you every single passing second. Life is not the same without you, but I know you are with me...always! I would give anything to have a 'Nathan Hug' and that brotherly advice that you are so good at giving. This is hard. You will never, ever be forgotten. I will see you again some day and I cant wait! All my love."
Kassi Jo of Spokane, WA

"To the Family and friends of “Marine 7”, Your Marine will be forever in my memory. Our unit set up the base/tents/fuel system in late Sep. 2001. The Sep 11 attacks were still fresh on our minds. The day your Marines deployed to our forward location. I was asked to help set up the grounding wires for their aircraft on the parking ramp. As an Air Force member I was amused and impressed by the rock “sidewalks” around the Marine tents. On Jan 9th I had flags flown on a KC-135 for my Family and friends. The next day I found out a Marine plane had been lost. I sat down on a fuel bladder, saddened by the news. I wondered if I knew any of them or if they had come to listen to country music cd’s we played down by the beach. I can’t say I knew them, but they were ours for a short time. Everyone mourned their death. A “Soldiers cross” memorial service was held at the theater. Later when I presented my flags to Family and friends, I told them of the sacrifice your loved ones made and how they should always remember our “Freedom isn’t Free”. Thomas Jefferson 1787 "The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants."

Our Military isn’t for everyone, but some do more than just volunteer and show up. They go to the tip of the spear, where the fight is. God Bless you for raising a Marine that did more.

MSgt William “Bill” Cordes (USAF Retired)
Moody AFB Ga.

"To the Hays Family,
My name is Ashley. I used to live in Wilbur. I am currently in the Army. I attened the same school as Nathan. Nathan was older than me. I was going through old pictures and found some pictures from when I was in 6th grade. He was my 6th grade camp counsler. We had such a fun time. Nathan had a special way with people. As i surve our country and I think about what type of soldier he had to have been. He had a big heart and always had a smile on his face. I will never forget him because of the influence he had on me almost 9 years ago. You should both be proud of the son you raised. Take care and God Bless."
Ashley Brese of Wilbur, Washington

I would like to say thank you to you and the other Marines who were on that KC-130 with you. And to your family, I wish to extend my deepest sympathy.

Semper Fi Devil Dog!"

"Nathan was my roommate in barracks at Miramar. I started to become friends with him a couple weeks before the deployment and we actually started to become a lot better friends over the course of the dep. So it was just as hard for me when I found out the news as it was for the people who worked with him on a daily basis. My condolences go out to his family. Should've been done long ago. Nathan was a Supurb Marine and a good friend. He has and will always be missed."
Cpl Mike Kuzmanich of Chicago, IL

"Nathan Hays was my cousin. My whole family loved him very much. Thank you Nathan Paul Hays!!!!"
Sara Grotjohn of Libby, Montana/United States

"Thanks for stepping forward when America needed you. To the family - Thank you for your contribution to our liberty and freedom. I'm sorry for your tremendous loss."
Ronald Carlson of Montrose, MN

"Semper Fi and RIP brother!"
Mike (USMC) of Indianapolis Indiana

"Sergeant Hays, goodbye soldier and thank you. You are my hero."
Bill of Houston, Texas

"Only because of brave warriors like Nathan do we have any freedom, any security in our world. God bless him for what he gave us."
The Estes Family of Phoenix, AZ

"Every time I drink a beer or Play some roller hockey with friends, I am thinking about all the fun times we had In North Carolina, With Rockey,Robinson,J.Cobb, Pablo, Josh P., J.Hill,S.Wayne,B,Greenberg, and all the other guys that went through VMGRT-253Flight Phase. It was a blast and you will never be forgoten. To Nathans Parents your son was an awesome person,Marine,and Friend."
Mike P. Joyce of Marietta Ga. USA

"To the Family of Sgt Nathan Hays,
Though I didn't know him nor did I serve with him, I feel your deep pain and grief. I am also from a smalltown in Washington, just norh of Grand Coulee. I am in the USAF and have been to where Nathan served. His bravery for doing his job will never be forgotten. Whenever I drive through the small town that dedicated their football field to him, I feel like crying. I hope that his life and his LEGACY will never go un-noticed or forgotten.


This is my email for the family for Sgt Nathan Hays if they wish to write. Thank you for your son and the HEROE that he will always be."
SSgt William Glover of BREWSTER, WA (Fairchild AFB)

"My name is Cathie Longstreth and I was the grandmother to Duane E. Longstreth, killed in Baghdad on August 7, 2003. I am also a member of the "Bridge People" of Outpost 122. The members of the Bridge Team rally at Outpost 122 (the exit 122 off I 5) every Saturday in an effort to support the troops of Ft. Lewis, McCord AFB and Camp Murray (Washington State National Guard). We have the honor of greeting hundreds of military members and their families every week. The response from the troops is heart warming and welcomed .

I am writing this message to the other families in Washington State that have also lost a family member while serving our country, since September 11, 2001. My family would like to display a picture of the fallen hero, with the name and possibly the date of death, on the bridge while we are rallying. It is intended to honor them for the sacrifice they made but will not be used by us as a personal political statement. We hesitated to replicate the pictures we find on the many web sites without the express permission of the surviving family, as we have had our own experience with the media attempting to use our loss to support their political position.

If you do not object to us using your loved ones picture, please email me with your permission at one of the email addresses below. If you have a special picture that you like us to use please email that as well, otherwise we will be using one of the pictures already posted on the web.

Cathie Longstreth of Tacoma, Wa.

"I didn't get the chance to serve with Nathan I am sure I missed out on getting to know an outstanding Marine. Your loss will not be forgotten, I am truly sorry."
Sgt Hirtler Former Raider of St Joseph Mo

"Thank you Nathan Hays, you will not be forgotten. Your bravery goes beyond words. I want to express my deepest gratitude for your sacrifice. To the family and friends, my prayers and deep condolences in your loss. May God strengthen you from knowing that fellow Americans and people around the world care about you and grieve with you in your loss. God bless you all. A very appreciative fellow American,"
Leo Titus of Grayslake, Illinios

"Not a single day goes by when I don't think of Nathan and the Hays Family. I will never forget what Nate has given me and I will always be proud of having served our country alongside a man like him. He was a great Marine and an even better friend."
Ryan Nelms of San Diego, CA

"To the Hays family;Nathan was one of a kind and will be missed. Who would have ever thought that a kid from our small school would make such a difference in our lives? My thoughts and prayers are with you. We can keep him alive by always remembering how he gave his life for us."
S. Moore of Spokane, WA

"To the family and friends of Sgt. Nathan Hays:
May God's grace be with you during your time of grief. Please know that our thoughts and prayers are with you and we feel your loss and share in your sorrow. Bless Nathan for the sacrifice he has made to make a better life for the rest of us."
The Ford Family of Wells, Nevada

"To the family and friends of Sgt. Nathan Hays:
I am saddened by the loss of your loved one. He will always be remembered as a hero for fighting for freedom. I hope that this website will be a source of comfort and encouragement for you during this difficult time, and in the future as you recall the memories of Nathan, who continues to live on in your heart."
Tim Rivera of Powder Springs, Georgia

Honor them by remembering... Freedom - is their gift to us But his soul goes marching on