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John A Quinlan


A soldier from Maryland was one of eight who died in a CH-47 Chinook helicopter crash in Afghanistan on Sunday. Warrant Officer John Quinlan, 36, lived in Tennessee but was raised in Timonium. He had been in every major offensive since 1990 — from the first Gulf War to Somalia and Afghanistan.

Quinlan was a graduate of Dulaney High School. He joined the Marines right after graduation. Ten years later, he joined the Army and fulfilled his goal of becoming a successful Chinook pilot. Quinlan was stationed in Afghanistan with the 160th Special Forces Aviation Regiment. According to military reports, the CH-47 Chinook helicopter Quinlan was piloting was on a transport mission when the helicopter had a sudden loss of power and crashed in eastern Afghanistan on Sunday.

“Every time I thought of him, he brought a smile to my face,” a childhood friend, Brian Edward, told WBAL TV 11 News. Edwards described Quinlan as an avid swimmer, a jokester and a family man. Quinlan was married and had three daughters, all of whom live in Tennessee.

“From talking to his mom and his dad, right off the bat they said their consolation comes from the fact that he died doing what he loved to do,” Edward said.

Quinlan would have celebrated his 37th birthday on Monday.

Robert Quinlan, a retired Army Major, said he never pushed his son to pursue a military career and was shocked to find out John had joined the Marines, after graduating high school in Maryland in 1987.

“My attitude at the time was, “If this is what you want — go for it,’ ” Robert Quinlan said.

“I never pushed,” Robert Quinlan said. “He fell right in. He was right off and running. He signed up for four years, and then four more.”

Susan M. Ripke, John Quinlan’s sister, said the dangerous military life simply fit her big brother.

“He was never going to be the kind of guy who was stuck at a desk,” Ripke, of Seymour, Connecticut, said. “He always had to go, go, go. He had a personality that just took over a room. He was just a big, Irish guy.”

Standing 6 feet 4 inches tall, John Quinlan could only fly Chinook helicopters, his father said. They were the only ones with enough headroom.

“I always said he was the only man I look up to,” said Robert Quinlan, who is just two inches shorter than his son.

John Quinlan made his home in Clarksville, Tennessee, with his wife, Julie, and the couple’s three daughters — Keely, 10, Maddy, 8, and Erin, 3.

On one of his last visits back home, he brought his family a special gift. “It’s an American flag that he flew on a mission in Afghanistan,” said Mrs. Ripke. The framed certificate stated that the “flag was flown on a direct action combat mission … during Operation Enduring Freedom in October 2006.” “He loved what he did,” said his sister. “My father was so proud of him.”


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