Captain Aaron Roy Blanchard was killed in a rocket attack in Pul-E-Alam, Afghanistan, on April 23, 2013.
He was born in Yakima in on April 2, 1981 and grew up in Selah. He attended Lince Elementary and played Little League Baseball. He and his brothers were part of a happy flock of neighborhood children that played in the streets near Crusher Canyon under the close supervision of many loving parents. Aaron learned a love of speed on his Big Wheel, plunging down Fifth Avenue with his feet off the pedals, in order to gain maximum velocity. He decided then that when he grew up he wanted to be an elk, and, were that not possible, a pilot in the US Armed Forces.
Aaron attended Selah Middle School and Selah High School, where he was a varsity wrestler and pole vaulter. He served as a page in the Washington State Senate. He played the trumpet in the Yakima Community Band that was directed by his grandfather. The band even took a great trip to play in Europe.
Aaron was an avid hunter and loved roaming the hills and canyons and mountains of Central Washington with his brothers and beloved Labrador retrievers. He was an accomplished bow hunter and exceptionally knowledgeable about elk. His expertise and frank posts as "Colockumelk" on the "Hunting Washington Forum" earned the respect of a far-reaching network of friends. Aaron and his brothers looked forward to the annual elk hunts that brought together the Blanchard Men for a week in the woods of camping, laughing, and hunting.
He enlisted in the Marine Corps shortly after graduation from high school in 1999. He completed basic training at Camp Pendleton in San Diego and earned certification as an Aviation Mechanic at Pensacola, FL. He made three major deployments including two combat tours in Iraq as a platoon Sergeant. Aaron's Marine career took him all over the world, across the oceans and through the skies, from Southeast Asia to Iraq.
In 2002 he met the love of his life, Becky. After discharge from the Marine Corps, Aaron and Becky were married. Together they shared a "once in a lifetime" love, filled with laughter and adventure. In 2008 they celebrated the birth of a son, Hunter, and in 2011, the birth of daughter Amalia. He was a doting father and committed husband. The love he gave to his family was his greatest achievement.
In 2005, Aaron and Becky enrolled at Central Washington University, where Aaron was a bull rider for the university Rodeo Club. He joined the Army ROTC program, seeking the bachelor's degree and leadership training required to be a helicopter pilot. Aaron led the CWU "Wildcat" Battalion to national recognition as the nation's "Most Outstanding Senior Army ROTC Battalion," and earned his commission as second lieutenant upon graduation.
Aaron completed pilot training at Ft. Rucker, Alabama; he was reassigned to Ft. Drum, New York, in 2011. In January 2013, his unit spent three weeks in Colorado, where he trained in high-altitude flying in preparation for deployment to Afghanistan. He loved flying his Apache helicopter and showed off his expertise at an air show at Ft. Drum, New York. In early April 2013, he joined the 2nd Aviation Battalion, 10th Combat Aviation Brigade in Afghanistan, flying an AH-64D Apache Longbow helicopter.
Aaron's passion for service and leadership, and his determination to know and understand his work and the world around him earned him the respect of his peers. His warmth, wonderful sense of humor, and generosity will always be remembered by his friends and family.
Military colleagues describe him as having a huge heart: "If you told him he couldn't do something, he'd do it, no matter what." He took care of others. He is described as having a wonderful spirit, easygoing, able to get along with everyone, and adventurous. Aaron's friends and colleagues nicknamed him "Rudy," a reference to Rudy Ruettiger, who, against tremendous odds, pursued and achieved his dream of earning a place on the Notre Dame football team.
While Aaron was passionate about service to his country, the center of his universe was his family. He reveled in his role as loving husband to Becky and adoring father of Hunter and Amalia. On leave from the Army or Marines, Aaron sought out time with his brothers, mother and father, and grandparents. He looked forward to family events that brought together scores of cousins, and aunts and uncles.
Aaron's awards and decorations include the Purple Heart, the Bronze Star, the NATO Medal, the Afghanistan Campaign Medal, the Combat Action Badge, the Army Achievement Medal, the Army Service Ribbon , the National Defense Service Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, the Army Aviator Badge, the Navy-Marine Corps Presidential Unit Citation, the Navy Meritorious Unit Commendation, four Navy Sea Service Deployment Ribbons, the Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal, and two Rifle Expert Badges. He also completed Marine Combat Training, Aviation Machinist Mate Courses, the Apache Aviator Qualification Course, the Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape Course, and the Aviation Office Basic Course.
Aaron was preceded in death by his grandfather, Roy D. Blanchard. He is survived by his wife, Rebecca; son Hunter and daughter Amalia; mother Laura Schactler; father Don Blanchard; brothers Michael and Karl Blanchard; grandfather John Schactler; grandmothers Carolyn Schactler and Nadine Blanchard; and an extended family and universe of friends who mourn his passing with broken hearts.
The Hunting Washington Forum is sponsoring "Joshua Cup IV Tribute," a big-game hunting tournament to generate funds for Aaron's family as well as the Blanchard Family Memorial Fund has been created at Wells Fargo Bank.
Funeral services will be conducted Saturday, May 4, 2013 at 11:00 AM in the Stone Church located at 3303 Englewood Ave, Yakima, WA 98902. He will be laid to rest on Sunday, May 5, 2013 at noon in the Washington State Veterans Cemetery in Medical Lake, WA. To share a memory of Aaron, please visit www.keithandkeith.com.