BAKERSFIELD, CA - The mother of a Bakersfield airman killed in a plane crash is sharing memories of her son.
Herman Mackey III was known as "Tre" to those who knew him best. He was one of three crew members killed when their tanker went down in Kyrgyzstan on Friday.
Mackey graduated from Bakersfield High School and was a member of the Junior ROTC. That's where he decided to enter the Air Force. His mom, Debra Mackey, says he was as dedicated to his country as he was his family.
"I just walk around here saying 'I just wish I could have five more minutes with him'," said Debra through tears. "He loved to fly. And, he's been over to Kyrgyzstan several times and I would always watch the news to see if something happened. And, he would always tell me 'don't do that. I'm going to be fine. I'm going to be fine. I'm going to be fine.' So, he made me more comfortable with what he was doing. And, I quit worrying about him at the wrong time."
The single mother learned Friday she'd lost her son when the tanker plane he was in crashed in northern Kyrgyzstan. The KC-135 tanker was flying to Afghanistan to refuel combat jets when it went down.
Retired Master Sergeant Alberto Daniel, first met Mackey at Bakersfield High School and took him under his wing.
"You know as recruiters, we don't get, we don't get close ties, but he was like a son," said Daniel, choked up over the loss of Mackey.
"Sgt. Daniel is the one who actually inspired him to join the Junior ROTC program his freshman year," said Aiesha Mackey, Tre's sister.
"During those four years, we would talk and when he was finally ready to join the Air Force, he came to me," said Daniel.
It was in the Air Force, Mackey met his wife, Megan. The couple had a daughter together, Payton, now two years old, and settled in Spokane, Washington. While the 30-year old was a dedicated family man, he proved his devotion to his country when he was needed for a second deployment.
"Just to give you an insight on the kind of person Tre was, he volunteered. He wasn't supposed to go on rotation to go over to Kyrgyzstan this time and he volunteered," said Major Kris Fink, Senior Instructor of ROTC at Bakersfield High School.
"I'm definitely proud of him," said Daniel of Mackey.
"He knows I love him. And, he knows how proud I am of him. He gets tired of listening to me brag about him. He'd walk away if he heard me talk about something he's done. We all were proud of him," said Debra Mackey of her son.
Mackey's family is still arranging funeral services. They are waiting to hear from the military to see when Mackey's body will be returned to the country. The cause of the crash is under investigation.
A trust fund is set up to help cover funeral expenses. It's at Kern Schools Federal Credit Union under Tre Herman Mackey, III. The account number is 30333.