After a Black Hawk helicopter crash in Afghanistan on March 11 the Army chaplin came to the door to notify the family of SSG Steve Blass that Steve had been killed. Four other families who also lost their loved soldier in this crash were receiving this same news.
"Since then, the Army, our family and friends and entire communities have wrapped their arms around us to make it through the days," says Carol Blass, Steve's mom. "We have been overwhelmed with support and acts of kindness. The respect shown and love for Steve and his service to our country was amazing."
"And continues to be," Randy Blass, Steve's dad, adds.
Carol and Randy Blass of Estherville with a photo memorial honoring their son, SSG Steve Blass, who was killed in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan Monday, March 11.
EDN photo by Michael Tidemann
The list is long, and the Blass family wants to acknowledge everyone who has contributed to the Steve Blass Memorial Fund, as well as the time, money, food, services, items of comfort and many other random acts of kindness that the family continues to learn about.
"The truth is that we felt support that came from places and people we don't even know about - we don't know who they are," says Carol. "It's apparent that Steve touched many lives while he lived, and continues to touch many lives through his death."
Steve left his Estherville home on a snowy March 13, 2006, to begin his career with helicopters in the Army, and returned to American soil at Dover AFB in Delaware on March 13, 2013, exactly seven years later. His parents and wife were there, along with family members of the other four soldiers killed in that crash.
The Blass family has always been from Estherville, where Steve graduated from ELC in 2003. Along with his brother, Matt, Steve was proud to be from this community. "He was proud to be an Iowa guy," says his brother.
"To those who were able to share in the visitation and funeral, you understand that there are no words to describe the impact felt and heard. We thank our friends at the Henry-Olson Funeral Home for their professional and heartfelt ways of helping us honor Steve and his military family. For the music from Glenn Henriksen and Bill Hansen, the facilities from the ELC School administration, teachers and students, the cars and drivers provided by Motor Inn, the Estherville VFW and Legion for their support, facility and dinner, we thank you so very much," says the family.
"The military presence and the words spoken by Steve's Army family appropriately honored Steve and comforted us with pride," says Carol. "We know that Steve was living his dream, not only with his career and helicopters, but especially with his wife and son," adds Karen Stoller, Steve's aunt.
"The 'Avenues of Support' from Spencer to Estherville welcoming Steve back home, and from Estherville to Spencer to his graveside service were simply amazing. As we cope with the loss of our fallen hero, everyone who has reached out to honor him has touched our hearts with pride," says Aunt Karen. "The presence was huge from the fire, police and sheriff's departments in Emmet, Clay and Dickinson counties to Sgt. Duane Stuckey and our area soldiers, the Iowa Highway Patrol, Iowa Department of Transportation, area businesses, area cities and their residents, the VFW and State Sergeant at Arms, American Legion and Auxiliary Posts from our entire area, the area Veterans Affairs offices, churches, Boy Scout troops, radio and television stations, newspapers and press all honored Steve with their presence. It truly was a community effort," Carol says of the days leading up to and throughout Steve's funeral service. "These people were with us at every door we went through," she adds.
"Tears will forever fill our eyes," says Randy, as the family remembers the patriotism shown by 'The Flag Man' and hundreds of volunteers who organized and displayed thousands of American flags throughout Estherville and on the route by Superior, Terril, Milford and Fostoria to North Lawn Cemetery in Spencer. Hands over hearts, flags flying.
"And the presence of the Patriot Guard riders - 200 strong - who joined us to honor Steve was amazing," the family adds.
"We thank the teachers and school administrators who took the opportunity to use the reality of our local tragedy to help students better understand and grasp the sacrifice of our soldiers and veterans," say the Blasses. "We appreciate that the City of Estherville and Mayor Kenny Billings who proclaimed 'Steve Blass Day' on April 1, 2013, in honor of Steve on his 28th birthday, and to the city employees who went above and beyond to help.
"The best compliment to Steve would be that any one of us, children and adults, be reminded that our freedom and the service of our soldiers not be taken for granted.
"Again, an emotional and heartfelt 'THANK YOU to all' from the family of SSG Steven P. Blass."
On April 18, members of the family attended a ceremony for SSG Steve Blass at Fort Stewart, Ga., where Steve, with his wife and son, was stationed at Hunter Army Airfield in Savannah. On this day, the Warriors Walk Tree Dedication Ceremony honored Steve and seven other fallen heroes from this base who lost their lives in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan by planting a tree to honor each of the soldiers. These eight families now know the beauty of the living memorial walk which is now lined with 453 trees honoring fallen soldiers from Ft. Stewart/Hunter Army Airfield from the US operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Steve's wife, Tricia shares, "It's comforting to have a living memorial where Hayden can visit to help him understand what a hero his daddy truly was."