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Painting honors fallen National Guard "brothers"

It was a bittersweet reunion Saturday when about 100 members of a Johnstown-based National Guard helicopter unit came together for the first time since returning in August from deployment to Afghanistan.

The ceremony in the Pennsylvania Army National Guard helicopter hangar at John Murtha Johnstown-Cambria County Airport included the unveiling and dedication of a painting dedicated to two members of the unit who were killed in combat April 9 in the Nangarhar Province.

The painting by Larry Selman shows Apache pilots Chief Warrant Officer 3 Matthew Ruffner and Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jarett Yoder circling suspected insurgents in Nangarhar Province, Afghanistan, on the day their helicopter crashed.

Selman began work on the painting shortly after the soldiers were killed. He was contacted by Capt. Ernie Carlson with the unit, Maj. William Horner said on Saturday.

He relied on photographs and soldiers’ descriptions of the terrain, but visited the Johnstown facility for a look at the Apache helicopters.

“Captain Carlson reached out to Larry Selman while he was still in Afghanistan,” Horner said. “He wanted to do the painting so we would have a permanent way of remembering our fallen brothers.”

The original painting is being donated to the Pennsylvania National Guard 28th Combat Aviation Brigade. Ruffner’s and Yoder’s family members received numbered prints signed by Selman during Saturday’s ceremony.

Prints were also available to the other members of the 1st Batallion, 104th Attack Reconnaissance Regiment.

The painting includes another helicopter on patrol with Ruffner and Yoder. Chief Warrant Officer 2 John Kelley was pilot of the second helicopter and Capt. James Kistler was co-pilot. Both signed the numbered prints on Saturday.

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