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In a somber and patriotic moment, members of Chelsea City Council voted unanimously to name the forthcoming B2B trailhead at Timbertown Park after local fallen hero and Purple Heart recipient, Captain Joel C. Gentz of the United States Air Force.  

Joel was a Chelsea native and Boy Scout who loved outdoor activities like hiking and backpacking. After his 2002 graduation, he attended Purdue University while also participating in their Air Force ROTC program.  

According to documents included in the council’s agenda packet, after receiving his degree in aerospace engineering from Purdue, he enlisted with the United States Air Force and became a Combat Rescue Officer.  Combat Rescue Officers belong to a special unit whose job is to rescue and recover downed or injured troops and provide medical assistance. Their motto is, “These things we do, that others may live.”

Tragically, Captain Gentz and three other rescue airmen were killed in action on June 9, 2010, when their medevac helicopter was shot down in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom. Gentz’s deployment had begun only six weeks earlier. The other airmen killed during the operation were Staff Sergeant David C. Smith of Alabama, Technical Sergeant Michael P. Flores of Texas, and Senior Airman Benjamin D. White of Tennessee. A fourth man, Captain David A. Wisniewski, died several weeks later of injuries sustained in the crash.

Shawn Personke, chair of Chelsea’s Parks and Recreation Commission, said before the vote, “I just wanted to recall the day that he came back to Chelsea. He had a police escort to his church and the whole community came out and lined the avenues and streets to pay respect. This is the next step in his honor, Chelsea’s son.”

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