A Hero Among Us 8/15/2011

Chief Petty Officer Heath M. Robinson was 34 years old when he died August 6 in the CH-47 Chinook helicopter shot down in the Tangi Valley of Afghanistan.  He was a Navy SEAL.  Sixteen other SEALS, five Navy Special Operations troops supporting them, five Army air crew members, three Air Force airmen, seven Afghan soldiers, a civilian interpreter, and a military working dog were also killed on the Chinook.  They were flying to assist a unit of the 75th Ranger Regiment that was pinned down by enemy fire.

Heath’s residence was listed as Detroit, and he was assigned to an East Coast-based SEAL unit.  Very few of us realized he and his family also had a residence here on the island, and it was only after news of his death became public that most islanders discovered his Mackinac connection.  Although they were limited in the time they could spend here, the plan was for Heath to retire in two more years, go back to school for his MBA, then spend as much time as possible in the condo they had purchased. 

Heath was the only Michigan resident who died that day.  He graduated from Petoskey High School in 1995 and enlisted the next year, completing Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL School (BUDS) in Coronado,California in January of 2000.

His decorations include four Bronze Star Medals, three with ‘V’ for valor; Joint Service Commendation Medal; three Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medals, two with ‘V’ for valor; Joint Service Achievement Medal; three Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals; Combat Action Ribbon; two Presidential Unit Citations; Navy Meritorious Unit Commendation; five Navy Good Conduct Medals; Navy Fleet Marine Force Ribbon; National Defense Service Medal; Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal; two Afghanistan Campaign Medals; Iraq Campaign Medal; Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal; Global War on Terrorism Service Medal; six Sea Service Deployment Ribbons; NATO Medal; Navy Expert Rifleman Medal and Navy Expert Pistol Shot Medal.

In his sermon this morning at Little Stone Church, Dr. Vincent Carroll told of meeting Heath a couple of years ago.  Vince was walking on Main Street through the Mission District and came upon a young couple with a small child, going toward the ferry docks.  The mother was carrying several small bags, and the young man was handling quite a few large luggage pieces.  Vince offered to carry a couple of the bags for the mom.  While walking toward town, he chatted with them and discovered that Heath was a SEAL, and that they had bought an island condo.  They were very excited about one day becoming a real part of this community.

That’s all the background I can offer, but I can imagine, as a child, Heath may have come to the island with his parents – perhaps many times.  Obviously, somewhere in his past, the island had called to him as a place to one day bring his family for a slice of small town America – a place far removed from the career he had chosen and did so well – far from the violence of war, where children could safely ride down the streets at night, and where a couple could sit on a bench near the water, watch the sun set and “study war no more”.

We thank God for him and others like him who fight every day and night for our freedom – who bravely go into harm’s way so we can live in peace.

The Mackinac Island flags are at half-staff and will remain there until September 6.  We all wish we had known him – this hero among us.  It would have been an honor.

Chief Petty Officer Heath M. Robinson

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26 thoughts on “A Hero Among Us 8/15/2011

  1. He is a truly wonderful hero. He certainly looks so very happy in the photo. We thank him and his family members, children and wife for his service, and their sacrifices. May God bless them all.

  2. Thank you for making this a little more real for us. I mean that sincerely. We hear the statistics so often that it’s easy to forget that these are fathers and husbands, sons and brothers, memebers of a community with hopes and dreams. God bless all the men and women who are willing to put themselves in harms way for the better good of mankind, and a special prayer for their families and friends.

  3. I read a brief profile of Heath last week. I noticed that he was from Petoskey, where we often camp and that he had graduated the same year that I did. But this makes me realize how close it is to home, your readers feel they know you and through you to others who do know him.
    May God be with his family in the days and years ahead.

  4. What a lovely tribute to this wonderful hero. May God bless his family and all the service men and women who put their lives on the line for us each and every day. Thank you Brenda sharing this story with us.

  5. Thank you for putting a face to a hero I only kjnew bt name. God bless Heath and his family. Thank you Heath for your service.

  6. A great tribute. My heart goes out to his family – I cannot imagine! My friend’s son flies chinooks and when I heard what had happened, I was in a panic. What a terrible tragedy. We take for granted how much of a sacrifice our servicemen make for us!

  7. A very touching story. We wondered why the flags were at half-mast when we were there last week…..now I know. It was great meeting you Bree! We enjoyed our stay and now, back to realty.

  8. Beautiful eulogy for a wonderful man, a hero. My thoughts and prayers are with his loved ones.

    Death leaves a heartache no one can heal,
    Love leaves a memory no one can steal.

  9. What a wonderful blog Brenda. Two of the Seals were from Shreveport, La. and the flags here were flown at half staff through Sunday till the services were complete. These two guys were longtime friends. They graduated from the same high school a year apart. One was the Lcdr. and the other was one of the Senior Chiefs. They both had families with children. We also must not forget the brave Army and Air Force heroes who were on the mission. I tried to comment last night but I couldn’t type good. For some reason my eyes kept fogging up. Please tell the Reverend Carroll hello and I wish him well, and hope to see him next year.

    • It must be something going ’round, Charlie. I was experiencing those same “foggy eyes” while I was writing that story. Love ya’ll!

  10. Brenda,

    Thank you so much for such a touching blog. He certainly was a Hero, as was every one of the men who were on that aircraft. The families of all of them have been in my prayers.

    Our 24 year old grandson-in-law is in the Air Force, stationed in Germany, and expecting to be deployed to Afghanistan in the future, so this kind of hits close to home.

    • All our soldiers in harm’s way are in mine and Ted’s prayers everyday, Lowell. Please let me know when he is deployed to Afghanistan.

  11. Thanks for telling us about Heath. I feel so sad for his family. May he find eternal rest.

    ~On a lighter note, I was on the Island Sunday! I was so luck to run into Jill again!! It was like seeing a celebrity! She was outside of the bookstore when I seen her and we chatted for a bit. I am sorry I missed you. One day I know we will meet. But for now, its so cool to see Jill! Have a wonderful week!!!! Michelle (from the “thumb”)

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