MSgt Samuel M. Gardner, age 35, meteorologist superintendent, died in a plane crash just outside of Ramstein Air Base, Germany.
He was from Idalou, Texas, and joined the Air Force in 1974.
In the early morning hours of August 29th, 1990, a C-5 Galaxy transport took off from Ramstein Air Base in Germany in support of Operation DESERT SHIELD. It was flown by a volunteer Reserve crew from the 433rd Airlift Wing in Texas.
As the aircraft started to climb off the runway, one of the reverse thrusters suddenly engaged. This caused the aircrew of the C-5 to lose control. The aircraft nosed over, one of it's wings plowed through the woodline just beyond the base perimeter and crashed in a field beyond.
Of the 17 people onboard, only 4 survived the crash. All four were in the rear troop compartment.
MSgt Gardner Jr. was a model for the residents of this small West Texas town, his mother says.
"Mel always stood up for what he believed in," said his mother, Veda Smith. "He was very involved with his family and church, and was an inspiration to all."