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Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 Terry L. Varnadore II

Died April 23, 2011 Serving During Operation Enduring Freedom

29, of Hendersonville, N.C.; assigned to 1st Attack Reconnaissance Battalion, 10th Combat Aviation Brigade, 10th Mountain Division, Fort Drum, N.Y.; died April 23 in Alah Say Valley, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when his helicopter went down due to an undetermined cause.

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Drum soldier dies in Afghan helicopter crash

By James Shea

The (Asheville, N.C.) Citizen-Times

An Army helicopter pilot from Mills River, N.C., was killed April 23 in Kapisa province, Afghanistan, in a helicopter crash, according to his pastor and the military.

Chief Warrant Officer Terry Varnadore, 29, was assigned to 1st Attack Reconnaissance Battalion, 10th Combat Aviation Brigade, 10th Mountain Division, Fort Drum, N.Y.

He is survived by his wife, Casey, and a young daughter.

Varnadore served a tour in Iraq and was deployed to Afghanistan last year, according to his pastor, the Rev. Paul Thompson.

“He was a wonderful young man,” Thompson said.

Varnadore and his wife were high school sweethearts at West Henderson High School. They met in preschool and married shortly after graduation. Thompson said Casey is six months pregnant with the couple’s second child and described her as devastated by Varnadore’s death.

Varnadore graduated from Appalachian State University in 2003 and enlisted in the Army in 2005.

“He went into the Army to be a helicopter pilot,” Thompson said.

The Associated Press reported April 23 that a NATO helicopter crashed in eastern Afghanistan. The cause of the “hard landing” in Kapisa province was under investigation, said Maj. Michael Johnson, a NATO forces spokesman.

Johnson said he could not disclose what type of helicopter crashed or whether it was part of a larger operation in the area.

Rescue forces who arrived at the crash scene were fired on by insurgents as they tried to evacuate the helicopter’s two crew members, and they returned fire, according to a NATO statement. One of the crew members died at the scene and had not been identified by NATO forces as of April 24.

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Childhood dream came true flying Army helos

By Nanci Bompey

The (Asheville, N.C.) Citizen-Times

Terry L. Varnadore II always wanted to fly helicopters, even before joining the Army six years ago.

“My wife and me made the mistake of taking him to the Asheville airport to see the Black Hawk helicopters when he was 6 years old,” said his father, Terry Varnadore. “He told us, ‘Mama and Daddy, I am going to be a helicopter pilot one of these days.’ ”

Varnadore reached the rank of chief warrant officer 2. He deployed to Iraq in 2009 and to Afghanistan in October as a pilot with Task Force Phoenix, 10th Combat Aviation Brigade, 10th Mountain Division out of Fort Drum.

The 29-year-old Mills River native died April 23 while training a new pilot. The military said the crash in Afghanistan’s Kapisa province is under investigation.

“We are all still in shock,” Terry Varnadore said at his home in Mills River, where he raised his two sons. “We are trying to get over it, but you never get over it. You might calm down a bit, but I’ll never forget my boy. He was my life.”

Varnadore’s family said he loved life and grew up hunting, fishing, hiking and camping.

He met his wife, Casey, when the two were in preschool. They started dating at Rugby Middle School, and attended West Henderson High School and Appalachian State University together.

Varnadore and his wife loved to shag, winning dance contests through middle school, high school and college.

He was a star wrestler at West Henderson, where he also played football and ran track. He held a black belt in tae kwon do.

His father, who called his son Terry Lee, would stop by any Bojangles’ he passed to pick up his son’s favorite food, dirty rice.

“He touched a lot of people,” said his uncle, Tony Varnadore, who taught and coached his nephew in high school. “I don’t know anyone who came into contact with him that isn’t a better person.”

Varnadore married Casey soon after graduating from college and worked at Prince Manufacturing in Mills River for two years before joining the Army.

The couple has a 4-year-old daughter, Ava, and is expecting a second daughter at the end of July.

Terry Varnadore said his daughter-in-law sent his son a sonogram image of the baby last week. The family talked to Varnadore on the phone about having to get a bigger car and his plans to transfer to the Coast Guard to be with his growing family.

Varnadore’s younger brother, Tyler Varnadore, said the baby would kick when she heard her father’s voice.

“He did get to see his little baby girl, but he’ll never get to hold her,” Terry Varnadore said.

Tyler Varnadore, who sleeps next to a picture of his older brother and his niece, said Varnadore “was the best older brother you could ever ask for.”

He said the pair shared a deep connection, which had become even stronger over the past few months.

Tyler Varnadore last saw his big brother before he left for Afghanistan in October. The brothers stayed up late talking and playing video games.

“He was my role model, just like any big brother should be,” Tyler Varnadore said. “When he got back I was going to teach him how to fly-fish. He knew how much I loved it and wanted to be a part of it, and I’m never going to share that with him.”

“It’s going to take forever to get over this,” he said.

Varnadore’s awards and decorations include the Air Medal, the Meritorious Unit Commendation, the National Defense Service Medal, the Afghanistan Campaign Medal, the Iraq Campaign Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the Army Service Ribbon, the Overseas Service Ribbon, the NATO Medal, the Army Aviator Badge and the Combat Action Badge.

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Community shares in family’s grief as body returns to hometown

By Joel Burgess

The (Asheville, N.C.) Citizen-Times

ASHEVILLE, N.C. — The weather was sunny and picture-perfect at Asheville Regional Airport on April 30. But this was not the homecoming Terry Varnadore wanted for his son.

About 100 volunteer Patriot Honor Guard motorcycle riders stood silently with U.S. flags as the father sobbed over the flag-draped coffin of his 29-year-old son and namesake Terry Lee Varnadore II.

Varnadore, an Army helicopter pilot from Mills River, was killed April 23 in a crash in Kapisa province of Afghanistan.

Hundreds paid their respects at the airport as a Falcon 20 airplane brought his body back to western North Carolina. Hundreds more lined the road as a hearse brought his body to Hendersonville.

His father pressed his head against the coffin and caressed it slowly. His crying was audible for hundreds of feet.

White-gloved soldiers in red berets saluted and the Reserve Officers Training Corps from West Henderson High School — Varnadore’s alma mater — presented arms.

The chief warrant officer 2 was deployed to Iraq in 2009 and to Afghanistan in October 2010 with Task Force Phoenix, 10th Combat Aviation Brigade, 10th Mountain Division, Fort Drum, N.Y. His crash is being investigated by the Army.

He left behind a 4-year-old daughter, Ava, and wife Casey, who is expecting a second daughter at the end of July.

The rest of Varnadore’s immediate family joined his father at the casket, at times crying and touching the polished wood and flag covering it.

“I cannot even imagine what he is going through,” said Ken Worthen, who as a Patriot Guard ride captain helps organize the volunteer motorcycle escorts for fallen service members.

“As a father, my heart would be broken because I lost a child. But I would be proud because my son was doing what he wanted to do, serving his country,” Worthen said.

Varnadore, a star high school wrestler, wanted to fly helicopters since he was a boy, his father has said.

He met his future wife in preschool and married Casey after they graduated from Appalachian State University.

When the body returned home, she stood with one hand on her mouth and another on her swollen belly, dropping her head at times in grief.

Andrea Wilcher, 47, did not know Varnadore but said she and her husband Rob live nearby and felt they had to come to the airport.

The two work for Buncombe County and heard about Varnadore via Facebook. She clutched a small U.S. flag and wiped away tears.

Wilcher said her heart went out to Casey. Having a daughter herself, she said she knew how hard it was to raise a child with a husband, “much less by yourself.”

“I would tell her that I and the people in this community — and I don’t know her — but I love her,” she said.

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