Air Force 1st Lt. Joel C. Gentz
Died June 09, 2010 serving during Operation Enduring Freedom
25, of Grass Lake, Mich.; assigned to the 58th Rescue Squadron, Nellis Air Force Base, Nev.; died June 9, near FOB Jackson, Afghanistan, in a HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter crash. Also killed were Air Force Staff Sgt. Michael P. Flores, Air Force Staff Sgt. David C. Smith and Air Force Senior Airman Benjamin D. White.
(The following was taken from www.annarbor.com of June 24, 2010) A sign at Twister’s Ice Cream in Chelsea read “In memory of Joel Gentz. Thank you for your service.” The Mobil service station displayed a sign that read “God speed 4 Joel Gentz.” In front of the Chelsea Market, a sandwich board simply stated “God Bless Joel Gentz and his family.”
Those were some of the written messages of support for 25-year-old Air Force First Lt. Joel C. Gentz Thursday. Along the streets of Chelsea, dozens of residents showed their respect in other ways: by waving small flags,standing at attention and just lining the streets during the funeral procession for the 2002 Chelsea High School graduate. Gentz was killed June 9 during a rescue mission in southern Afghanistan.
Clad in leather vests and riding motorcycles affixed with American flags, members of the Michigan Patriot Guard Riders led the processional from Cole Funeral Chapel to St. Paul United Church of Christ, where the funeral was held.
Charles Burgess, a veteran of both World War II and the Korean War, leaned against a tree on Main Street under blue skies Thursday. He said came to pay his respects to a serviceman killed in the line of duty, adding that he has deep sympathies for those serving in the present conflicts.
“It’s a whole different world than we knew back when I was serving,” Burgess said.
With him were his wife Mary Ann Burgess and their granddaughter Alice Markle. They stood along the route because “it was the patriotic thing to do,” said Mary Ann Burgess, whose T-shirt was emblazoned with an American flag.
The route was lined with many veterans, including those from both the American Legion Post and Veterans of Foreign Wars groups. Jack Myers, a retired Chelsea village manager and retired Marine was also there to “honor a fallen hero,” he said.
Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts paid their respects, too. Gentz was a former member of Boy Scout Troop 476 in Chelsea. Mack Ruffin, scoutmaster of Chelsea Boy Scout Troop 425, brought several Scouts with him to witness the processional and to help park cars at the church.
Dania Dunlap-Hurden brought her two daughters Samantha, a Junior Scout, and Madeline, a Brownie Scout, to the start of the processional on Middle Street.
“As a parent, it’s a great way to show our children what a family is all about," she said. "In Chelsea, we will honor our own,” Dunlap-Hurden said.