TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) The Chinook 346 is more than just a helicopter for Deborah Lamere. As a flight engineer, Lamere spent thousands of hours in the back of the aircraft, flying in and out of the enemy territory.
“The first thing I did when I saw her, was give her a big kiss. I mean I miss her,” said Lamere.
September 11, 2001, prompted the Topeka woman to leave her job and join the army.
Lamere enlisted in 2004 and worked her way up from mechanic to flight engineer, before a rough landing in battle injured the nerves in her left side. The chopper was going to be sent to the scrap yard but the Combat Air Museum found it and brought it back to Topeka to put together.
“It’s one thing to have artifacts in a museum but when you’ve got somebody who used that in combat in the military. Someone who fixed and flew the helicopter, there’s just nothing like that, ” said Kevin Drewlow, the director of the Combat Air Museum.
The process of transporting a helicopter that size is no easy task but in honor of 9/11, the tow company didn’t charge a dime for the estimated $1,500 job.
Before Chinook 346’s final “flight”, Lamere made sure to put an American flag in the cockpit as well as the flag that was in the copter when she was in a crash landing.
“There’s a reason I’m here, there’s a reason 346, you know, we happened to come to Topeka together, and September 11, I think that just adds to the memorial sake of it,” said Lamere.
The helicopter will be on display at the Combat Air Museum once it is restored.