18 July 2010

Captain Patrick Brian Olson

Patrick was my friend Kristin's older brother. As a fairly shy transplant to North Carolina, I did not know Patrick well. But through Kristin I knew he was a great big brother. Through the friends I made that had grown up with Patrick I knew he was a generous and loving friend.
 Kristin and Patrick with their grandparents
(photo courtesy of Kristin Olson)

Patrick played football all three years of high school; a member of our celebrated "Chain Gang" who won the conference championship in 1982. (And peeps, you don't know football until you know SOUTHERN football.) He also wrestled all three years. We were a 3A school and most everybody was a multi-sport athlete. During this time, Patrick spent three years on the Student Council and in the Interact Club, as well as an officer in the National Honor Society.

(photo courtesy of Washington High School Packromak 1983
Washington, NC)
He attended the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, CO.  (Quite a climate change for a North Carolina boy!) and married the love of his life, Robin.

 Patrick and Robin, senior year
(photo courtesy of Washington High School Packromak 1983
Washington, NC)

(photo courtesy of Air Force Academy Heritage War Memorial site)

Patrick was a 25 year old 1st Lieutenant when he flew an A-10 in Desert Storm.  From the Air Force Academy's Heritage War Memorial site:

"Captain Patrick B. Olson died on 27 February 1991 while on a combat mission in Saudi Arabia supporting Operation Desert Storm.  Olsen was piloting an OA-10 aircraft and was directing other warplanes toward Iraqi tanks.  He had a call from Army troopers who believed Iraqi tanks were about to pull an end run on their position.  Olson threw his Warthog's 57-foot-6-inch wing almost vertical to the ground as he banked sharply to aim at the Iraqi armor.  Gunfire erupted around him and hit his aircraft.  The damage was serious and Olson tried to land the aircraft.  He was inches from putting down on a sand airfield when his OA-10 flipped over.  He did not have time to eject."  
Patrick in Saudi with what his sister called "that goofy mustache."
(photo courtesy of  Kristin Olson)

What this does not say is that Patrick flew his Warthog on one engine and no hydraulics to a friendly base and that his landing gear collapsed and the A-10 cartwheeled.

The point of this post is not only to highlight a home town hero, but also bring  a petition to your attention.  This petition was started to encourage the City Council members in Washington, North Carolina to name a new bridge on River Road after Patrick.    In the last few days, due mainly to Facebook, the number of signatures on this petition has grown from 30 to 158.   Please consider visiting the petition and adding your name.  It doesn't matter if you have no ties to Patrick, Washington, North Carolina, the Air Force, the NCDOT, or really, even me.  (I know it's hard to believe I said that, since I espouse that it is really all about me!)   Please add your signature to honor a fallen hero and to help us all remember Patrick.

I'd just like to add a commentary by one of Patrick's former squadron members from the Air Force Print News Today:

Selfless Service

Commentary by Lt. Col. Dean Lee
87th Flying Training Squadron commander

2/10/2009 - LAUGHLIN AFB, Texas -- Have you ever sat down and really thought about why you joined the military? Perhaps it was to get education benefits or to see the world. Or maybe it was to please a family member or to get away from a situation. Many join the military to gain a skill or just obtain a steady job.

Whenever I contemplate why I joined the Air Force, I think about a friend I made during my first assignment. His name was Lt. Patrick Olson, but we all called him "Oly". We both were new A-10 Pilots at Davis Monthan AFB and deployed to fight in OPERATION DESERT STORM. On one particular mission during the second day of the ground war Oly, a forward air controller, was calling in fighters to attack the hasty Iraqi evacuation out of Kuwait. I still remember that day.

The weather was cold and there was an overcast deck about 3000 feet above the ground. Oly had to fly in and out of the clouds to spot the enemy movement then pass the information to the fighters. One of the times when Oly dove below the clouds, enemy artillery lit him up and shredded his A-10. Oly was able to maneuver the jet back into the clouds and egress towards friendly lines. He had so much battle damage to his jet that he had to fly on one engine and the third backup flight control system.

He successfully maneuvered the crippled jet back to a friendly base, but he was unable to adequately control the jet during the landing and was killed in the crash. "Oly" will always be remembered for giving his life preventing hundreds of Iraqis from escaping Kuwait.

But the thing I will always remember about Oly was how much he loved serving his country. When they recovered his personal effects, they found an American flag in his G-suit pocket. He flew every single mission with that flag in his pocket to remind himself of who he was serving. To say the least, Oly personified our slogan of "Service before Self".

Ever since Oly's crash, I have always carried a flag in my G-suit pocket when I fly partly in respect for my long lost friend, but also to remind me of why I continue to serve in the military. Some days I forget and view my service as work, or just a job.

But I try to remember that we are "serving" in the military, not just "working" in the military. Oly served his country, and I want to be like him. Though you and I might not be flying combat missions everyday or heralded as heroes, I do think we can re-orient our perspective to remember why we are serving our country.

Because in reality, America is relying on us. We are public servants and have the privilege to serve. The next time we contemplate why we joined the military; let's remember heroes like Oly who gave their all so we could have so much. Whatever your reason for joining the military, Let us all unite as we provide "Service before Self".

(Patrick was posthumously promoted to the rank of Captain.)   


  1. Fantastic tribute page! And thank you for supporting the Bridge effort!

  2. thanks so much for whoever came up with this idea. I personally think it is a wonderful duty of ours. Look what he did for us. He didn't stop to ask if we wanted him to or not; he just responded as a devoted soldier carrying out his job and love for his country. Please include my name for the bridge w/honors for him. Susie Harrell

  3. I grew up with Patrick and joined the military as well right behind him. I understand the honor of a warrior and a bery good friend. We lost contact when he graduated which in some case is typical. Such a sacrifice is a sign of bravery and devotion to the call of duty. It is right to honor someone for giving their life for our country. I give this country 20+ years so give it to him the honor.

  4. Sorry for the grammar errors but here is what I meant to say:

    I grew up with Patrick and joined the military as well right behind him. I understand the honor of a warrior and a very good friend. We lost contact when he graduated which in some case is typical. Such a sacrifice is a sign of bravery and devotion to the call of duty. It is right to honor someone for giving their life for our country. I gave this country 20+ years so give it to him the honor.

  5. Oh Sisu, I made it until Lt. Col. Lee's piece, then my eyes started leaking.
    I'll go sign the page and see if I can repost it or have friends "like" it so they can sign. I have a bunch of military moms and active duty I'm friends with. I'm sure they'll help as well.

  6. Peedee, if you go to my FB profile you can share it from there. I have several links. Plus, if you think LTC Lee's piece makes your eyes dusty, click on the link for Beaufort County Now blog and read the piece by Art Carawan and Holly Ange. And thanks for signing and sharing!

  7. Signed, and hope that helps:


    BTW: I will further update this post.

    Kind Regards
    Joachim Jacob
    Warthog News Editor
    Berlin, Germany

  8. This comment has been removed by the author.

  9. I was in Pat's squadron at the Air Force Academy. I have great memories of Pat from those days, and send me regards to Robyn, and Pat's parents on Memorial Day.

    Jeff Linskens


Okay, GO!