Air Force captain from Hollandale to be buried at Arlington

Published 7:23 pm Wednesday, December 6, 2006

Air Force Capt. Kermit Evans was the kind of man willing to help anyone who asked and dedicated much of himself to mentoring young men, his family said.

The Hollandale native was counting down the last months of his second tour in Iraq when he died Sunday in a helicopter crash. He was scheduled to come home in January.

Instead, he’ll be buried Tuesday at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.

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“He was kind, gentle, happy-go-lucky and ready to help anybody,” said his mother, Margaret Evans, of Hollandale. “He liked mentoring young men. He liked to help them.”

Memorial services are planned for noon Thursday at Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas and Saturday at Simmons High School in Hollandale, Miss.

Margaret Evans said her son had played football and ran track at the school and later played softball. He was a chemical engineering major at Mississippi State University before joining the Air Force in 2001.

“He’s a young man that the world is going to miss,” Margaret Evans said. “According to the mother of the young man he mentored, he called them when he was in Iraq the first time to check on them and before he got married, he took his fiance by there to meet them. That made me feel so good.”

Evans, 31, and three others died when a Sea Knight helicopter was forced by a power malfunction to make an emergency landing on Lake Qadisiyah, a huge reservoir behind the hydroelectric dam at Haditha on the Euphrates River in Anbar province, according to the military.

“He had received orders about three weeks ago that he was going back to Cannon Air Force Base in Clovis (N.M.), and they were so excited,” Margaret Evans said.

She said the airman’s wife, Pernetha Evans, and the couple’s 13-month-old son, Kermit Jr., lived in Las Vegas, where Pernetha Evans worked in a lab.

Kermit’s brother is also serving in the Air Force, said Margaret Evans, and a young man he mentored is, too.

Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell, the top U.S. military spokesman in Iraq, said Tuesday that the helicopter began to lose power after lifting off from the dam. He said all but the pilot and co-pilot evacuated from the back of the helicopter and it glided across the water and used a boat ramp to get on shore. He said no fighting was going on in the area at the time.

A Marine was pulled from the water but attempts to resuscitate him were unsuccessful. The bodies of three missing service members were found in a subsequent search, the military said. Twelve other passengers survived. The military has said the incident does not appear to be the result of enemy action and it is under investigation.

The Defense Department said Evans, a civil engineer explosive ordnance flight commander, was assigned to the 27th Civil Engineer Squadron, Cannon Air Force Base, N.M. and was deployed with the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing, a unit of the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing based at Balad, 50 miles north of Baghdad.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the Evans family as they grieve the tragic loss of this airman, warrior, husband, father, son, and brother,” Lt. Gen. Gary North, commander of U.S. Central Command Air Forces said in a statement. “Anytime we lose an airman, our entire Air Force family feels the loss.”