Navy spouse Goldie Lahr found herself experiencing a range of emotions on Aug. 31 when learning her husband had been injured following a helicopter crash on the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln.
The day began with anticipation.
“I was packing up. I was going to make the drive out to California,” Lahr recalled.
Lahr lives in Pensacola, Florida, but her husband, Robert, was geo-baching in San Diego. Assigned to the Lincoln aircraft carrier, he was on an underway but was planning to take leave when the ship returned.
“He had some time off, and we were going to vacation around California, have a babymoon,” she said.
After all, Lahr was six months pregnant with their first child.
“I sent him an email saying I’m all packed up. I’ll see you soon.”
But at 11 p.m., her cell phone lit up on the nightstand.
“I knew right away it wasn’t good,” she said.
The call was coming from her husband’s cell phone.
“I knew if he was calling, something wasn’t right. He was supposed to be on the ship.”
Robert wasn’t on the ship. Instead, he was calling from the hospital.
Lahr recalled their brief conversation.
“He said, ‘A helicopter crashed, and I got hit. My arm is broken, and I have a deep wound. They are about to wheel me back into surgery.'”
The crash he was referring to was that of an MH-60S helicopter conducting routine flight operations aboard the deck of the Lincoln off the San Diego coast. According to the DOD, the helicopter was landing on the flight deck when it experienced “side-to-side vibrations,” causing the main rotor to strike the flight deck, flipping the aircraft over the side of the ship. The helicopter crashed into the sea, killing five sailors. Five additional sailors aboard the Lincoln, including Lahr, were injured.
“At the time, he wasn’t sure whether or not they would be able to save his arm,” Lahr said of her husband’s assessment of the injuries.
Lahr remembers feeling in a daze as she booked the first flight from Pensacola to San Diego the next morning.
“I wasn’t thinking straight.”
Even though it was after midnight, she contemplated hopping in the car.
“It made no sense,” she said. “A cross-country drive would have taken days, but I couldn’t stand the fact that my flight wasn’t going to leave for six hours. I felt helpless.”
While she came to her senses, realizing her early morning flight was the best option, Lahr struggled to cope.
“I was worried about the surgery. I didn’t know how extensive it would be. Not being able to do anything was torture.”
Upon arriving in San Diego —
“It was crazy how quickly news traveled. I got off the plane and had so many messages offering me rides, places to stay. It was overwhelming but so touching that so many people wanted to help.”
When Lahr got to the hospital, Robert was still in surgery, but she was at least able to get more information.
“He’d dislocated his shoulder, broken his humerus, had deep wounds from shard and shrapnel cutting through his pectoral muscle and bicep. The doctors said they did a really good job on the ship to stop the bleeding.”
An Osprey transported Robert and another sailor from the carrier to an ambulance soon after the crash.
“He was in good hands for sure.”
He remained in the hospital for five days.
“It will be a long recovery for him. There’s a lot of rehab to the arm and shoulder that needs to happen,” Lahr said.
Still, she knows they were among the lucky ones.
“We’ll never forget the families and the people lost that day. When I went to go help him clean out his bunk on the ship, I just thought, ‘Thank god I’m doing this with you, and I’m not here doing this because you’re gone.’”Read comments