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John William Garrett Jr.
Courtesy Garrett family

West Virginia
Veterans Memorial


John William Garrett Jr.

"A hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself."

Joseph Campbell

John William Garrett Jr. was born on June 23, 1961, in Huntington, West Virginia, the son of John W. Garrett Sr. and Linda C. Garrett. He had two sisters Betsy Garrett-Bushong and Katie Garrett (Lange). John Jr. grew up in the Huntington area, where he attended St. Joseph High School, and later, Marshall University. He was popular in high school and elected president of his senior class. When he decided college wasn't for him, he chose to go into the military. His high school teachers recalled that he seemed interested in the military early-on. Some of his heroes were the Wright Brothers, Chuck Yeager, and John Glenn. His love for flight history and travel made the Air Force a natural fit for him. John Garrett Jr. had married Tracy Mohr, and they had a daughter, Jessica Ann, who was born in Okinawa. The family later moved to Wurzburg, Germany, where they were stationed at the time of his tragic accident. ("State Native's Love of Flying Recalled," Charleston Daily Mail, 15 April 1994.)

John's childhood was influenced by the landscape of America during the 1960s and 1970s. As he grew up, America became involved in the Vietnam War and eventually left the conflict when John was 14 years old. The social and political change across America during his childhood shaped John's views and impacted his decision to join the military.

According to Betsy Garrett-Bushong, "My brother Johnny, as we called him, was the most patriotic person I have ever known. As a child, he had a wonderful sense of fairness and equality. He always stood up for the 'under-dog.' I know that he genuinely loved flying and serving in the military on humanitarian missions, such as the one he was on when he was killed."

John enlisted in the U.S. Air Force on April 17, 1981. He served in Operation Desert Storm and oversaw a communications pod on an AWACS C-130 aircraft. John always dreamed of being a pilot, so he transferred from the Air Force into the Army's Blackhawk Helicopter program on May 16, 1991. He was assigned to the Army's 159th Aviation Regiment, 6th Battalion, C Company stationed in Giebelstadt, Germany. He served as an Army UH-60 Blackhawk Pilot and was a Chief Warrant Officer 2.

On April 14, 1994, CW2 Garrett was serving as a pilot of one of two UH-60 Blackhawks on a U.N. Humanitarian Relief Operation for the Kurdish minority in Northern Iraq. Multiple no-fly zones had been enacted by the U.N. as a result of the Persian Gulf War, and as they entered a no-fly zone over Northern Iraq, the Blackhawks' Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) system failed. Two American fighter jets patrolling the area mistook the UH-60s for Iraqi Hinds. The Blackhawks were both shot down, killing CW2 Garrett and the 25 other people on board. His body was returned to the United States, and he was buried in Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors. Additional information on the April 14, 1994, mission can be found at the [unofficial] "Arlington National Cemetery Website" (

Headstone for CW2 John William Garrett Jr. Courtesy Arlington National Cemetery

John W. Garrett Sr. outlived his son by only two years. Plagued by health problems in the last years of his life, the elder Garrett, along with other surviving families of the shootdown, always believed the facts of the incident were being held from the public, and they continually tried to persuade the U.S. Congress to conduct a further investigation. ("Killed Pilot's Father Dies," Charleston Daily Mail, 12 July 1996.)

CW2 Garrett served in the military from 1981 to 1994 and was posthumously awarded a Purple Heart. He is survived by his wife Tracy Mohr Garrett and daughter Jessica Ann Garrett.

This article was originally prepared by Timothy Perkins and John Ward, George Washington High School JROTC, January 2019. It was revised February 2021 based on information received from Betsy Garrett-Bushong, sister of John W. Garrett, Jr.


John William Garrett Jr.

West Virginia Archives and History welcomes any additional information that can be provided about these veterans, including photographs, family names, letters and other relevant personal history.

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