Blogs » Fortiter in re, Suaviter in Modo » A Hard Lesson to Learn Twice

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As I cleaned out my e-mail from Iraq I came across this letter that was written by one of my senior warrant officers. I was very impressed, as I typically am by this gentleman. You may remember me mentioning Lynn’s death in an earlier blog and while I don’t want to re-open old wounds but I do want to pay tribute to a friend on Veteran’s Day and take a moment to morn as I did not get the chance to do so when she passed. She is certainly missed.
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Dear Family and Friends:
 
We got some very sad news from back in Colorado. Captain Lynn Scutellaro died last Saturday night in a traffic accident. She was 28 years old, and had returned from a one year combat tour in Iraq last November. She was a Platoon Leader in Alpha Company and a Blackhawk Pilot. She was in Breckenridge for the weekend. Out for a walk after dinner, she was crossing a street where the sidewalk was under construction. A bus came round the corner and struck her. She was trapped beneath it and pronounced dead at the scene by first responders. Awful. Tragic.
 
Lynn grew up in New Jersey. Attended the prestigious Lawrenceville prep school. Graduated from CU Boulder with a BA in Sociology. She enlisted in the Guard to help pay for school, I believe. Applied for OCS upon graduation and then went on to flight school. She was almost six feet tall, with dark hair and a classic Roman face and a strong, beautiful rowers body. She looked like a warrior. Our behind-her-back nick-name for her was Warrior Princess. She was very strong-willed and had an East Coast edge that was often misunderstood in the Colorado Guard. She worked with juvenile delinquents in a half-way house for a time, and had aspirations of becoming a law enforcement officer. For her war service she was awarded the Iraq Campaign medal and the Air medal. She surely has many other awards that I'm ignorant of.
 
Her death hit me particularly hard because I did not particularly like her. Its not surprising that a crusty old 40-something warrant officer would not have much besides the mission in common with a newly-minted 20-something commissioned officer. I had not seen her in over two years. She had a young lion's, show-the-world, chip on her shoulder. I butted heads with her more than once. We flew together a few times. Once, in a mission de-brief, as a new co-pilot of the lead aircraft, she challenged some critique I was making as the Instructor Pilot/Air Mission Commander. When in frustration, I offered to discuss it with her outside after the de-brief (so as not to further embarrass her), she misunderstood me as offering to engage her in fisticuffs. There at the planning table, in front of several crews, she made the karate salute of the sheathed fist, and said "Bring it"! That young woman had more moxy than any other I've met.
 
Captain Scutellaro will be laid to rest with military honors at Fort Logan national Cemetery in Denver this Saturday, after a Catholic mass. I wish I could be there. I sorely regret the small ill will I had against her. I have learned this lesson twice before from the deaths of two men older than me. I forgot it. I will not do so again. That is Lynn's parting gift to me. Never hold a grudge; never hold any resentment, however small, in your heart against anyone. When they die, it evaporates and you realize it was nothing. My wife, Patti reminds me that I spoke well of Lynn Scutellaro's positive qualities even when I was having difficulties with her, and that is a comfort to me. She had great potential as an officer and as an aviator, and I'm sure in all other aspects of her life. Her untimely death is a great loss for the Colorado Army National Guard, and the citizens she served. My heart breaks for her family and friends.
 
The second big lesson re-enforced for me by her passing is this: the Higher Power rules. Captain Scutellaro flew many hundreds of hours in combat on General Support and Air Assault missions. She was home only eight months before she was called Home. We salute you, Warrior Princess. We will miss you. We are proud to have known you. Rest in Peace, our Sister Soldier.