Jim Saler - Pilot


For Daddy

By Danielle Saler


Today my mother's heart stopped beating

Today I told God I stopped believing

Everyone's speaking these foreign words, I can not comprehend

Nothing can make me understand

Everything in this world has gone wrong

For the few twelve hours you've been gone

You left so much behind

I can feel your touch on the inside

Our screams and crying can't bring you back home

I love you so much but I hate God for you leaving us alone

I hope you can hear me

I hope you can feel me

Wait for me....wait for us

As we send our love

We all feel so lost without you

No one knows what to do

I'm trying to collect everything of you I can remember

This hot summer has turned to a cold December

I want you to know I will sing for you

I want you to know I will live for you

No one can ever take your place

I pray to God I will never forget your face

My heart begins to sink

As I write these thoughts down with blue ink

Your favorite color....the same as your lover

Remember that's what you used to call mom

And as I close this broken song

Remember you are never forgotten

You're my hero

Chrissy's hero and Natalie's hero

Your're grandma and grandpa's son

And mom....you were the one.

I love you deeply

Goodnight Daddy....dream sweetly




From The Durango Herald,  July 9, 2005 :

Relatives and friends paid tribute Friday to Jim Saler, the pilot killed in the June 30 crash of the TriState CareFlight helicopter near Mancos.  Saler was remembered as a special father to his three daughters - Christine, Danielle and Natalie.  He was recognized as the man wife Janet viewed as "the one," a cherished son, a soldier and pilot.  "He loved his wife, his daughters, his family, his job and his country," Saler's supervisor, Matthew Rielly said Friday at a memorial service for the medical helicopter pilot.

Saler, 40, of Pueblo West was among three crew members killed when the helicopter that served Mercy Medical Center went down.  Also killed were flight nurse Bill Podmayer and paramedic Scott Hyslop.  Saler, who recently had retired from the Army after 20 years of service, was remembered for his dedication to helping others.  Col. Richard Goellen, an Army chaplain, told family and friends, including several soldiers and CareFlight members in uniform, that everyone should pattern their lives after the giving attitude Saler had toward others.  "I cannot think of a better way to keep the meaning of his life alive but by living out our destiny, by reaching out and supporting others as he did," Goellen said.

Saler also was remembered for his love of flying helicopters, both as a soldier in the Army and later as a medical helicopter pilot.  Rielly, who first worked with Saler as a pilot and later as the director of operations for CareFlight, said his first impression of Saler when he joined the flight line was the desire he had for flying.  He said whenever Saler took a first look at the helicopter he would be flying, "he had the biggest smile and the brightest eyes. He was excited to fly." Rielly said there were times he'd be training with Saler and would wonder who the teacher was.  " Jim was a very good pilot, very experienced," he said. "He was a natural leader. He was the go-to guy and he had a can-do attitude."  Rielly thanked Saler's wife for allowing her husband to join the flight line. " Jim made sacrifices so that others could live," he said.

In a tribute to her father, Danielle Saler read a poem she wrote the night her father died.  "You left so much behind. I can feel your touch on the inside," she read. "Our screams and crying can't bring you back home. I love you so much but I hate God for you leaving us alone."  Danielle, who wore her father's military dog tags around her neck and his pilot's wings pinned to her blouse, went on to say, "I want you to know I will sing for you. I want you to know I will live for you. No one can ever take your place, I pray that I will never forget your face."  She ended by saying, "you are my hero, Chrissy's hero, Natalie's hero, grandma and grandpa's son, and to mom, you were the one. I love you deeply. Goodnight daddy, dream sweetly."

The service concluded with a video about Saler's life, which ended with a picture of three white crosses at the crash site and the words: "May your spirits soar over us forever."  A Fort Carson honor guard conducted a 21-gun salute, followed by "Taps" and the presentation of American flags to Saler's family.


By LT Jack Miller NC, USNR:

James P. Saler, known affectionately to us as Jim , Jim Bo, and Master and Commander.  It sounds so cliché to say it, but Jim was a true hero.  He was a hero to his country, to his family, to his fellow soldiers, and to his flight crews.

Jim entered the military service in June of 1983 after he graduated from high school in South Lake Tahoe , California .  He began his service as an infantryman with a Rapid Deployment Force at Fort Ord , California , to which he would eventually be deployed to Panama during Operation Just Cause where he would earn the coveted CIB (Combat Infantry’s Badge).  Additionally during his career as an infantryman he would deploy to Macedonia with a United Nations peacekeeping force.  In 1994, Jim left the enlisted ranks and obtained his Warrant Officer Commission.

In the military realm, we call an individual that advances though the enlisted ranks to become an officer a Mustang.  Now, the definition of a Mustang is a small, hardy, independent wild horse.  Except for being small, I find this definition somewhat fitting.  I recall Jim spraining his ankle quite severely towards the end of the ski season.  He did not want to miss the final day of the season.  He was having me examine his ankle, asking me the whole time, “Is it stable…is it alright to ski on?”  His ankle was trashed and told him that it was best not to….He said, “But it is the last day.”  This whole time trying not to show the pain though his eyes as I manipulated his ankle.  I told him I would tape it up for him….he said never mind, my ski boot will hold me just fine.  I just laughed and asked him, “What did you ask me for then?”  He just laughed and hobbled off and I never heard him complain about his ankle again and he did ski on the last day of the season.

In 1995, Jim earned his Army Aviator’s Wings. He would eventually complete a tour in Kuwait and in Iraq as a Medevac pilot.  During Jim ’s 20 years with the Army he earned a Meritorious Service Medal, 5 Army Commendation Medals, 3 Army Achievement Medals, and 3 Good Conduct Medals.  He also earned his Air Assault Wings and Senior Aviator Wings.  He completed 2 tours in Germany and 1 tour in Korea .  His final assignment was with the 571st out of Fort Carson who is currently serving in Iraq .

Leonardo da Vince once said:  When once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been and there you will always long to return.  After the Army, it was only natural for Jim to carry over the mission that he so loved to the civilian realm with TriState CareFlight.

Jim was in awe of what his military and civilian medical crews could do.  He wouldn’t say it, but it was evident by the detailed questions of the whats and hows that he would ask.  He never expressed how much he was concerned for our patients, but it was obvious by the way he would follow every patient into the ER, OR, or Cath Lab.  But his awe for us was most evident in the pride he expressed when he talked about Janet going to nursing school.  His eyes would light up every time he talked about her and her classes.  I remember during Christmas…..he was so excited…..he pulled me aside and asked me what to get her.  I suggested a stethoscope….He said, “A what?”  I just giggled and we spent the rest of the afternoon shopping online for a Littman or DRG stethoscope.  I found out last night….that he had kept pestering Janet by trying to make her guess what he got her.  He had put enough thought into it that he had given her one with her favorite color of blue and had it engraved.

He never took credit for the contribution that he made. There was a flight not too long ago, where Adeline and I were given the mission of flying a patient that was experiencing a dissecting aortic aneurysm.  Jim was our pilot and I simple told him that we needed to get to Albuquerque as quickly and as smoothly as possible.  He never questioned that request.  Jim flew us to Albuquerque quickly and smoothly while dodging the typical late afternoon thunderstorms that the New Mexico desert brings.  The patient arrived safely and was quickly taken to the operating room.  Only then did Jim ask what was wrong with him.  I told him the patient’s condition and that only a quick trip to the appropriate operating room was going to save this man’s life.  I told Jim we were just passengers on this flight and that this was his save.  He just looked at me in disbelief, shook his head and stated, “ I am just the driver.”  He refused to take credit for the flight.

Jim was not only dedicated to his country and his family; he was dedicated to his crews.  On the back of Jim ’s helmet, were symbolic decals of the crews he had lost in Iraq .  He was a safety advocate, advocating the use of NVGs (night vision goggles) not only to provide a safer environment for us, but also to provide more opportunities of flight service to the community.  When we flew with Jim , we felt that we were his #1 priority.  Common questions when we would hear that there was an issue with the aircraft was, “Does Jim know?” and “What does Jim say?”  We felt that if Jim said it was ok, it must be ok and we felt safe.  He fought for our safety….which was obvious by the fact that they had to remove Jim ’s hands off of the flight controls after the crash.

Another flight story… Pat, Bill, and I (I was orientating Bill) were given a mission with Jim as our pilot last January.  This mission required us to go to 12,000 feet to rescue an individual that was involved in a snowmobile accident.  Jim landed us gently on a ledge (not ever setting the aircraft down fully) while we the medical crew jumped out to evacuate the patient.  He lifted and hovered below us the whole time we treated and packaged the patient.  When it was time to load the patient he once again lowered the helicopter gently onto the snow ledge and held it there while we loaded.  I personally only know one other pilot that could have made that flight with that altitude and aircraft load.  He was smiling the whole time during the flight.

Jim was not just our pilot, he was our friend and he was our brother.  He was also my sergeant, despite being commissioned as a warrant officer; he was still a sergeant at heart.  Upon hearing of my potential and future deployment, unlike others who were trying to figure out ways of keeping me home, Jim was already giving me the advice and knowledge of someone that had already been in country.  He was trying to take care of his officer.  He had told me that he wished he were going with me to make sure I came back safe, but he was afraid that his wife would kill him.  I think he was more afraid of Janet that he was of Iraq .

Jim was our living guardian angel and he will be missed dearly.

Jim loved this job….to fly in the Rockies with the right mission…so that others may live.