Gauchar: The morning after 20 soldiers, rescuers and para-military officers died when their helicopter crashed while on a rescue mission in Uttarakhand, the Indian Air Force offered a moving tribute.
"You all have done us proud, for you gave your life in service of your countrymen without discretion of colour, cast, creed and religion - more importantly, in their hour of need. You are now a guiding beacon in our deeds. Your selfless sacrifice in Operation Rahat is monumental and just remembering it would be more than any pilgrimage to us,'' said a statement.
It is signed "Brothers in Arms and the IAF family." A postscript says - "We will rest, but only after the rescue mission."
Those who died on the Russian-made Mi-17, which was inducted into the air force last year, include five from the Indian Air Force; nine from the National Disaster Relief Force and six men from the Indo-Tibetan Border Police.
With 60 helicopters in service, the mission to rescue thousands of people stranded in the flash floods in Uttarakhand is the air force's largest effort of this nature.
Wing Commander Darryl Castelino spent the night before the helicopter crash at an Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) camp. He told people there that he was happy about wearing his dark green jumpsuit for a big operation to "bring in more and more live people." He charmingly returned compliments on the great work his crew was doing.
The next evening, the helicopter that Wing Commander Castelino was commanding crashed in treacherous terrain while returning from Kedarnath.
The Indian Air Force has confirmed that among the dead are its five personnel on board - Darryl Castelino, Flight Lieutenant K Praveen, Flight Lieutenant Tapan Kapoor, JWO AK Singh and Sergeant Sudhakar Yadav, all from the 157 Helicopter Base in Barrackpore, West Bengal.