Parents hold tight to memories of son killed in helicopter training mission

Parents hold tight to memories of son killed in helicopter training mission »Play Video
Rick and Mari Stover speak to KATU's Carl Click about their son, who was killed in a helicopter training mission in England earlier this week.

VANCOUVER, Wash. – Over the years I've enjoyed hearing many of Rick and Mari Stover's proud stories of their son Chris – stories of athletic success, his time as a soccer referee and of course his distinguished Air Force career.

But today's story is not the one a friend wants to hear or that a parent wants to tell.

Chris, a captain, and three other crew members were killed when their Pavehawk helicopter crashed on a training mission in England on Tuesday.

"This is during graduation at the Academy," said Rick, showing me a photograph of his son shaking hands with President George W. Bush. "He got to meet President Bush during that time. Even though it was just five seconds, it's pretty important."

All the pictures and mementoes from Chris' service help with the grief some, and so does the knowledge of how many service men and women their son saved during his tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. Chopper teams like Chris' are the ones who pull soldiers out of dangerous situations.

Mom and dad learned maybe more than they wanted when they heard their son speak to students.

"Their crew had 100 rescues attributed to them – all the kids were 'ooh, ahhh.' In my mind I'm thinking, 'damn that's one a day, and that's going into fire and that’s going into situations,'" said Rick. "Knowing it was 100 was good enough for me. I didn't need all the details."

Mari is a longtime volunteer in youth sports and Rick is a basketball and soccer official in Vancouver.

Chris Stover was 28 years old and was married last year.

9/11 happened when Chris was in Vancouver's Evergreen High School. That event, and his desire to fly, led him to the Air Force Academy and a distinguished career as a helicopter pilot.

The Air Force will fly the Stovers and their daughter to England for a memorial service. The family is working on details to have another service here at home.