NEWPORT, Maine — An Army helicopter pilot from Newport was killed Monday in Afghanistan, members of Maine’s congressional delegation said Tuesday.
Army Capt. John “Jay” R. Brainard III, a 2004 graduate of Foxcroft Academy and a 2008 graduate of the University of Maine, was killed when the Apache helicopter he was piloting crashed.
Brainard, 26, was an active-duty helicopter pilot assigned to the 12th Combat Aviation Brigade, based in Fort Benning, Ga.
“Brainard was piloting an AH-64 helicopter when it went down on patrol,” 1st District U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree said in a statement. “The cause is being investigated.”
The Apache helicopter crash killed Brainard and another NATO service member in eastern Afghanistan on Memorial Day. A third died in an insurgent attack in the south, the U.S.-led coalition said.
Initial reports indicate there was no enemy activity in the area at the time the helicopter went down, the coalition said.
The deaths raised the number of NATO troops who have been killed in Afghanistan this year to 172. NATO is aiming to withdraw its combat forces by the end of 2014 and turn security responsibility over to the Afghans.
“I join with all Mainers today in expressing my most profound sorrow for the loss of one of our own, Capt. John Brainard, whose unfathomable sacrifice in defending our nation and the values which we hold so dear will forever live on in the collective heart of an eternally grateful country,” U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe said in a statement. “Indeed, he answered our most honorable call by joining the U.S. Army, and his extraordinary service will stand as an enduring testament to the very best of America.”
“On Memorial Day, Captain Brainard gave his life in the service of his country. Our state and our nation owe him a debt of gratitude that we can never repay,” Pingree said. “My thoughts and prayers are with his wife Emily, who he met when they attended the University of Maine together, and with his parents in Newport. During this time of sorrow and loss, I hope they know that we will never forget his sacrifice.”
“I am incredibly saddened to learn of the death of Captain Brainard,” said U.S. Sen. Susan Collins. “As we pause this week to reflect upon our nation’s fallen heroes, this is a somber reminder of the heroism of all the men and women who have served our country and made the ultimate sacrifice. My thoughts and prayers are with Captain Brainard’s family, his friends, and his fellow soldiers.”
Gov. Paul LePage and his wife, Anne, as well as 2nd District U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud, also expressed condolences to Brainard’s widow, other family members and friends.
“This news never comes easy and is especially difficult knowing this young man made the ultimate sacrifice on Memorial Day,” the LePages said.
“Captain Brainard served his state and nation with the highest honor, valor, and distinction, and I extend my heartfelt condolences to his family,” said Michaud.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.