Cheryl Turnage – Technical Sergeant, United States Air Force

Commerce Secretary Ron Brown and those who died with him on a Croatian mountainside were “the best of America,” President Clinton said during a solemn homecoming ceremony at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, April 6, 1996.

“They knew what their country had given them, and they gave it back with a force, an energy, an optimism that every one of us can be proud of,” Clinton said. “They were a stern rebuke to the cynicism that is all too familiar today.”

Brown, 12 business leaders, 13 government employees, six aircrew members, a reporter from The New York Times and two Croats died when the U.S. Air Force T-43 they were in crashed less than two kilometers from the Dubrovnik airport.Clinton called Brown a noble man “who never saw a mountain he couldn’t climb or a river he couldn’t build a bridge across.”

Shortly before the trip, he said, Brown was bubbling with enthusiasm about the mission, noting the business executives were going on the mission because they wanted “to use the power of the American economy to save the peace in the Balkans.”

The commerce secretary and his party were on a mission of peace and hope, Clinton said. “Nearly 5,000 miles from home, they went to help people build their own homes and roads, to turn on the lights in cities darkened by war, to restore the everyday interchange of people working and living together with something to look forward to and a dream to raise their own children by,” he said.

“They believed that America, through their efforts, could help to restore a broken land, help to heal a people of their hatreds, help to bring a better tomorrow through honest work and shared enterprise.”

The president, first lady, vice president, cabinet secretaries, families and friends stood silently as the military honor guard solemnly carried 33 flag-draped coffins one-by-one to shining black hearses waiting on the tarmac.It was the last journey home for the civil servants, airmen, and committed citizens who were all patriots, Clinton said. He vowed to continue their mission of peace, healing and progress.

“The sun is going down on this day,” Clinton said. “The next time it rises it will be Easter morning, a day that marks the passage from loss and despair to hope and redemption, a day that more than any other reminds us that life is more than what we know, life is more than what we can understand, life is more than, sometimes, we can bear. “But life is also eternal. For each of these 33 of our fellow Americans and the two fine Croatians that fell with them, their day on Earth was too short, but for our countrymen and women, we must remember that what they did when the sun was out will last with us forever.”

Air Force crew members killed in the crash were Captain Ashley Davis, 35, of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, aircraft commander; Captain Tim Schafer, 33, Costa Mesa, California, co-pilot; Technical Sergeant Cheryl Turnage, 37, Lakehurst, N.J., Tech. Sgt. Shelly Kelly, 36, Zanesville, Ohio, and Staff Sgt. Robert Farrington Jr. 34, Brierfield, Ala., stewards; and Staff Sgt. Gerald Aldrich, 29, Louisville, Ill., flight mechanic.U.S. Commerce Department employees killed were Ronald Brown, secretary of commerce; Duane Christian, security officer; Adam Darling, confidential assistant; Gail Dobert, deputy director, Office of Business Liaison; Carol Hamilton, press secretary; Kathryn Hoffman, senior adviser for strategic scheduling and special initiatives; Stephen Kaminski, commercial counselor for U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service; Katherine Kellogg, confidential assistant; Charles Meissner, assistant secretary for international trade; William Morton, deputy assistant secretary for international economic development; Lawrence Payne, special assistant for U.S. and foreign commercial service; and Naomi Warbasse, international trade specialist.Other agency dead were Lee Jackson, Treasury Department, U.S. executive director, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development; and James Lewek, CIA analyst.Business executives killed were: Barry Conrad, Barrington Corp.; Paul Cushman III, Riggs National Bank; Robert Donovan, ABB, Inc.; Claudio Elia, Air and Water Technologies; David Ford, Interguard Corp.; Frank Maier, Ensearch International Corp.; Walter Murphy, AT&T Submarine Systems, Inc.; Nathaniel Nash, The New York Times; Leonard Pieroni, Parsons Corp.; John Scoville, Harza Engineering Co.; I. Donald Terner, Bridge Housing Corp.; P. Stuart Tholan, Bechtel Corp.; and Robert Al Whittacker, Foster Wheeler Energy International.

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