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SAAF hosts event to commemorate soldiers who died in line of duty

Chief of the Air Force Lieutenant-General Wiseman Mbambo lays wreaths during the memorial service for the fallen heroes and heroines of the South African Air Force. Picture: Thobile Mathonsi/African News Agency (ANA)

Chief of the Air Force Lieutenant-General Wiseman Mbambo lays wreaths during the memorial service for the fallen heroes and heroines of the South African Air Force. Picture: Thobile Mathonsi/African News Agency (ANA)

Published May 16, 2022

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Pretoria - The day March 17 will forever be etched in the memories of the two wives whose husbands died when a Patchen Explorer crashed during a scheduled general flying day at the SA Air Force (SAAF) Museum in Valhalla last year.

The wives of the Reserve Force pilots were part of a memorial service hosted yesterday at Bays Hill Memorial site by the SAAF to commemorate all departed servicemen and women who had died in the line of duty.

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The sombre occasion was attended by families, friends and colleagues of the departed, who paid homage to the deceased by laying wreaths at the site.

Benni Barker, the wife of Major-General Desmond Barker, who was killed last year in an aircraft accident, said the occasion was an emotional one that brought many fond memories of her late husband.

“It is a very special day because this area, especially Swartkop, is where he and the colonel flew together for many hours. It was a very happy place for him. And it is very special for me to be here and know that this is where they departed the Earth and went to their heavenly home. It is a very special occasion, but sad at the same time,” Barker told the Pretoria News.

She described her late husband as “a very special person, who treated everybody as an equal”.

“He was a very compassionate person. He was loved by everybody. Flying was his passion since he was a little boy, and that was what he always wanted to do. He died doing what he loved best, and that gives me a little bit of peace,” she said.

Anita Iyer, the wife of the late Colonel Rama Iyer, said: “In the past I used to come here to commemorate the passing of others, and now it is for him. My husband also died in a crash last year. It is a special day for me.”

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Chaplain Thibedi Ndala said the fallen soldiers remembered yesterday had demonstrated how to love selflessly by laying down their lives for others.

“A soldier knows how to love. It is not just loving by words, but in practice.”

Pretoria News

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