Anissa Ann Shero
Staff Sergeant, United States Air Force
Virginia airman to be buried at Arlington; Grafton rite to be held June
Tuesday June 18, 2002
A West Virginia native killed in a military plane crash in Afghanistan will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery, her family says.
The bodies of Staff Sergeant Anissa Ann Shero and two other Americans were flown to a U.S. base in Germany, where they were received Monday with military honors. The three were to arrive at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware.
Shero, who was stationed in Florida with her husband, will not be returned to her hometown of Grafton, said her grandmother, Edith Kenney.
A public memorial service is scheduled for June 28 at the Mother’s Day Shrine in Grafton. Taylor County veterans groups are planning the event.
“This is to show our appreciation for the sacrifice she gave for our freedom,” said Tootsie Robinson, commander of Disabled Veterans of Taylor County.
Shero, 31, and Technical Sergeant Sean M. Corlew, 37, of Thousand Oaks, California, were members of the 16th Special Operations squadron that was serving as crew of the MC-130H when it crashed last week. Also killed was Army Green Beret Sergeant First Class Peter P. Tycz II, 32, of Tonawanda, New York.
The plane, a version of the C-130 cargo plane outfitted for special forces missions, crashed and caught fire after taking off from an airstrip in southeast Afghanistan. Seven others on board survived.
The crew was picking up three Special Forces members from the airstrip south of the town of Gardez. The cause of the crash is still under investigation.
Last fall, Anissa Shuttleworth married Nathan Shero, also a special forces airman, and changed her name. The couple were based at Hurlburt Field and had recently bought a home in Navarre, Florida.
Anissa Shero, who enlisted in 1992, was the first Air Force woman to die in Afghanistan, and the second West Virginian killed there since the military campaign began.
“When she called me a few days before she left, she said, ‘Well, I’m going again.’ But she couldn’t say where,” Kenney said Sunday. “I told her to please write me a postcard or anything, just to say hello or goodbye. And she did. She was a thoughtful child.
“It’s going to be very lonesome,” she said.
“I think back at the times I’ve treasured and what was and is now, and
I guess, what is to be. She would just laugh. I can see her laughing now.”
Edith Kenney once asked her granddaughter if she'd ever thought about flying. As a teen-ager, the granddaughter said, "No way. I never want to fly," and returned to reading a book on Kenney's couch.
More than a decade later, Kenney wishes her granddaughter, Air Force Staff Sergeant Anissa Ann Shero, had stuck to her words.
Shero, 31, of Grafton, was one of three American soldiers killed in a military plane crash Wednesday in Gardez, Afghanistan.
On Sunday, the bodies of all three soldiers were being escorted to a cargo jet to be flown to Ramstein Air Base in Germany, and then Dover Air Force Base in Delaware.
Troops held a brief memorial service while the flag-draped coffins were being loaded onto a C-17 transport plane.
Shero's body will then be flown to Florida, where she and her husband, Nathan, had lived, for a memorial service.
According to both grandmothers, Kenney, and Mary Shuttleworth, Shero will be buried in America's most hallowed ground, Arlington National Cemetery.
Shero's body is not expected to arrive in Grafton, where Shero graduated from Grafton High School in 1988.
Her spirit, however, will remain in the small Taylor County town of 5,000-plus people.
Houses and businesses are decorated with yellow ribbons and American flags flying at half-staff, honoring their hometown hero.
Inside one of the Grafton homes, Shero's maternal grandmother, Kenney, dug through a box of family pictures, searching for photos of Anissa, who Kenney called, "Nissy (pronounced niece-y)."
"I have all of these memories of taking her on trips," said Kenney, sobbing. "I remember taking her to places like Harpers Ferry and Tenneesee.
"I kept her a lot in my life. There were many times when her mom worked and I'd keep Anissa Ann. We just loved her. It's sad to lose her."
More than a week ago, Kenney and her husband, Scott, had driven to Ohio to visit relatives. They had planned to leave as early as Thursday until they received a phone call.
"I was sitting in the family's living room and my husband got a phone call from my son in Grafton," Kenney said. "I walked into the den where he'd been watching TV and he was saying, 'Yes. Where? When?' and all this. I asked, 'What's wrong?' He said, 'Edith, I've got to tell you something,' and he made me sit down in a chair. 'Edith, I hate to tell you this, but Anissa's been killed.' I just went to pieces."
Kenney had received a couple of postcards from Shero before they went to Ohio.
The cards were postmarked from Bermuda and Spain.
Kenney said Shero's father, Clyde Shuttleworth, a Vietnam veteran, received a letter from her Saturday.
Kenney thinks she might receive a letter from Shero this week, but if not, she still has the two postcards she'll "treasure" forever.
"She was a loving granddaughter," Kenney said. "I worshipped her. When she called me a few days before she left, she said, 'Well, I'm going again.' But she couldn't say where. I told her to please write me a postcard or anything, just to say hello or good-bye. And she did. She was a thoughtful child."
Shero, who was assigned to the Air Force's 16th Special Operations Wing at Hurlburt Field, Florida, enlisted in the Air Force on June 15, 1992.
She was the first Air Force woman to die in Afghanistan, and had earned four medals -- an Air Medal in 1996, the Air Force Commendation Medal in 2001 and two Air Force Achievement Medals, the last in 1998.
Shero's job was a loadmaster, responsible for making sure the cargo weight was appropriate for the altitude.
Kenney said Shero never talked much about the military. She was so secretive about her profession that Kenney never knew about the medals she'd earned.
"She did not brag," Kenney said. "I did not know about it (the medals) until I read about it in the paper. She's not the type to talk about her career. She'd tell me about the places she had been. But whenever she'd get ready to go on a trip, she'd tell me if I wanted to know what she was doing, to watch CNN."
Shero joined the military because "there wasn't much in Grafton for her," Kenney said.
Before enlisting, Shero worked for a year at a Grafton radio station, WTBZ.
There she performed all functions of radio from on-air work to shuffling papers at a desk.
She recently took up golfing because of her husband, an avid golfer. For Christmas, Shero received golf equipment and started to learn the game.
She was also a great swimmer and loved to read, Kenney said.
Shero had married her husband, also a Marine, in September. Nathan Shero recently returned from Afghanistan because the military didn't want both of them to serve overseas at the same time, her aunt said Thursday.
During her husband's six-month stint in Afghanistan, Shero spent time painting and decorating their Florida home.
"She was hoping we would come down and visit her," Kenney said. "Unfortunately, it never happened.
"It's going to be very lonesome. I think back
at the times I've treasured and what was and is now, and I guess, what
is to be. She would just laugh. I can see her laughing now."
According to her grandmother, Staff Sergeant Anissa Shero feared flying as a child.
But when the Grafton native joined the Air Force in 1992, well, she had to learn to deal with being in planes and helicopters.
Shero's job was loadmaster, responsible for making sure the cargo weight on an aircraft was appropriate for the altitude.
But on June 12, 2002, something went wrong in a U.S. military plane carrying Shero, 31, and other Special Forces troops in Bagram, Afghanistan.
The plane, a version of the C-130 cargo plane outfitted for Special Forces missions, crashed and caught fire after taking off from an airstrip.
Three of the 10 soldiers on board died, including Shero, of the 16th Special Operations squadron, based in Florida.
Grafton residents immediately decorated houses and businesses with yellow ribbons and flew American flags at half-staff.
They had lost one of their own.
Shero's body was buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
"It's a place of respect where I think she belongs," said Clyde Shuttleworth, Shero's father, last summer.
"They put on an awesome ceremony at Arlington and she deserves that."
Shero wasn't the lone soldier in the family.
Shuttleworth fought in the Vietnam War.
An ex-Marine who lost both of his legs from a mortar round in Vietnam in 1968, Shuttleworth supported Shero's decision to enter the military.
Family members described her civilian life as one of good-heartedness, laughter and excitement.
She loved to travel and read and had taken up golf before her death.
The man who introduced her to the sport was her husband, Nathan. The couple met in the Air Force. They didn't get to celebrate their one-year anniversary.
Her life was celebrated, however, in the Mother's Day Shrine church in Grafton in June 2002.
Shero, the first Air Force woman killed during America's campaign in Afghanistan, was honored and remembered by friends, family and state officials.
"Sgt. Shero is a West Virginian who, through her valor, has made it possible for us to enjoy the freedoms we have," said Gov. Bob Wise at the ceremony.
"West Virginians answer the call. West Virginians answer it unhesitatingly."
Position: Staff Sgt., Air Force's 16th Special
Crash victim took time out for father
State Air Force officer sent card before fatal crash
Tuesday June 18, 2002
In the final days of her life, Clyde Shuttleworth's only daughter took a moment from her military duties in Afghanistan to send her dad a Father's Day card.
The card arrived at Shuttleworth's home in Grafton, West Virginia, a few days before Air Force Staff Sergeant Anissa Ann Shero and two other Americans were killed last week in the crash of their MC-130H plane.
The front of the card reads: "Dads and Daughters." Inside was a brief handwritten note: "Happy Father's Day. Love, Anissa."
". . . The last letter I'll get from her. I'll keep it close by," Shuttleworth said Monday, fighting back tears. "I'm just numb right now. It's hard to believe this happened."
Shuttleworth said his own military experience will help him deal with his daughter's death. The ex-Marine lost both of his legs from a mortar round in Vietnam in 1968.
"I'm very proud of her for doing what she wanted to. That's what she enjoyed. That's what she wanted to do and I backed her up on it," Shuttleworth said.
Shero -- the first Air Force woman to die in Afghanistan and the second West Virginian killed there since the military campaign began -- will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
"It's a place of respect where I think she belongs," Shuttleworth said. "They put on an awesome ceremony at Arlington and she deserves that."
Shuttleworth hasn't seen Shero in four years and said he had been planning to visit her at her base in Florida in September. He was vacationing in Nags Head, North Carolina, last week at the time of her death.
The bodies of Shero and the other two other Americans arrived at a U.S. base in Germany on Monday before being flown later in the day to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware.
A public memorial service for Shero is scheduled for June 28 at the Mother's Day Shrine in her hometown of Grafton. Taylor County veterans groups are planning the event.
"This is to show our appreciation for the sacrifice
she gave for our freedom," said Tootsie Robinson, commander of Disabled
Veterans of Taylor County.
Stepsister holds memories close to her heart
Says they were classmates, close friends before they became family
Air Force Staff Sergeant Anissa Shero and Tanya Cathell-Bolyard knew about sisterly love before they watched TV, played games and ate dinner together under the same roof.
Born eight months apart, the two former Grafton students were close friends in elementary school.
The two classmates found more time to spend together after Shero's father, Clyde Shuttleworth, married Cathell-Bolyard's mother, Sharon Cathell.
"First, we were classmates and friends," Cathell-Bolyard said. "Then we became sisters and were a close family sharing the love that any real family would share, if not more. Anissa and I grew closer because of being friends, classmates and now, family."
Cathell-Bolyard, a Grafton City Hospital employee, will now cherish those moments.
Shero, an Air Force staff sergeant, was one of three U.S. soldiers killed June 12 after a military plane crashed in Afghanistan.
Her body will remain at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, home to the largest mortuary in the Department of Defense, before burial at Arlington National Cemetery. A date has not been announced.
As members of the Grafton High School Flag Corp, Shero and Cathell-Bolyard performed together at the halftimes of high school football games and went on to graduate in 1988.
Needless to say, it was Shero's spirit at home that captured her stepsister.
"She was a special sister to each of us," Cathell-Bolyard said. They shared a brother, James "Jamie" Shuttleworth, and a sister, Shannon Hebb-Blevins.
"Anissa was very thoughtful to remember birthdays, holidays and special occasions," Cathell-Bolyard said.
Shero's maternal grandmother, Edith Kenney, received a birthday card from Shero this week, as did Kenney's husband, Scott. And Clyde Shuttleworth got a Father's Day card from Shero recently.
"She was full of life and always happy and ready to help in whatever way she could," Cathell-Bolyard said. "She was always just a phone call or e-mail away, anytime we may have needed her. She was always there.
"Anissa has a very special place in each of
our hearts, but she is now more than just a friend, a classmate or a sister.
Now she is our hero."
Grandmother gets reminder of soldier through the mail
Letter, birthday card arrive from Shero
Edith Kenney found two treasures in her mailbox Monday.
They weren't checks, or anything with monetary value. But these two pieces of mail are priceless.
They came to Kenney's Grafton home in simple, plain envelopes, from her granddaughter, Air Force Staff Sergeant Anissa Shero, 31, in Afghanistan.
The mail -- a letter and an American Greetings birthday card for Kenney -- was dated June 8, four days before Shero died in a plane crash in Afghanistan.
The letter, written on notebook paper, described the Grafton native's time in Afghanistan.
"Well, here I am sitting here tired and quite bored," Kenney read from the letter. "It was 101 (degrees) in the shade today. It's hot. I'm sweating my (butt) off over here."
Shero wrote that she worked long hours in Afghanistan's humid weather, but it passed the time.
"I ride in the chariot of Armageddon as much as possible," she wrote.
She was one of three Americans killed when a MC-130H loadmaster aircraft -- a version of the C-130 transport -- crashed shortly after takeoff Wednesday.
All three bodies arrived Monday at Ramstein Air Base in Germany, where the soldiers received honors. Shero will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery, her family said.
Air Force and Army honor guards were in place at the Ramstein base as the flag-draped coffins of all three soldiers were carried off a C-130 transport plane. The bodies were to be flown to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware later Monday.
But for friends, family and the community, Shero's spirit lives on.
As Old Glory waved in the wind at half-staff in Grafton, and yellow ribbons marked her death, Kenney put together a picture album of her granddaughter.
Some pictures show her with Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and country music artists Dwight Yoakam and Keith Urban. Shero met them all in Las Vegas.
"She liked that Vegas," Kenney said. "She's been there four times."
Kenney spent the rest of Monday reading her mail again and again.
"She knew I liked cards," said Kenney, who recently celebrated a birthday.
Shero also sent a birthday card to Kenney's husband, Scott.
Shero wrote to her grandmother about life with the Air Force's 16th Special Operations Wing, thousands of miles from its base at Hurlburt Field, Florida.
"We have a projector and a DVD player for movies," Kenney read from Shero's letter. "We have a ping pong table, PlayStation, lawn chairs, a table, a couple of refrigerators, microwave, TV and a satellite, although it's not working right now.
"Everything is brown except the bright, blue sky."
Shero ended her letter, "Tell everyone I'll write again soon, and you can write, too. Love, Nissy." (Pronounced niece-y.)
A military service will be held at Dover Air Force Base before the burial in Arlington National Cemetery, at a date to be announced.
A memorial service will be at 6 p.m. June 28 at the Mother's Day Shrine in Grafton. Shero's body will not be returned to Grafton, Kenney said.
Also killed in the plane crash were Army Green Beret Sergeant First Class Peter P. Tycz II, 32, of Tonawanda, N.Y., and Technical Sergeant Sean M. Corlew, 37, of Thousand Oaks, California., who was a part of Shero's squad.
The MC-130H plane, a version of the C-130 cargo plane outfitted for special forces missions, crashed and caught fire after taking off from an airstrip in southeast Afghanistan. Seven others on board survived.
The crew was picking up three Special Forces members from the airstrip south of the town of Gardez. The cause of the crash remains under investigation.
Last fall, Shero (then Anissa Ann Shuttleworth) married Nathan Shero, also a Special Forces airman. The couple was based at Hurlburt Field and had recently bought a home in Navarre, Florida.
Shero, who enlisted in 1992, was the first Air Force woman to die in Afghanistan, and the second West Virginian killed there since the military campaign began. The first was Staff Sergeant Gene Vance Jr., of Morgantown.
Posted: 21 June 2002 Updated: 13 July 2002 Updated: 6 October 2002 Updated: 18 April 2003 Updated: 19 November 2005