Brenda Grubb

During her talk Tuesday to the Greenwood Rotary Club, Brenda Grubb, left, shows an editorial cartoon drawn by Ricky Nobile commemorating the July 2017 crash of a military transport plane in Leflore County that claimed the lives of all 16 servicemen on board. Next to her is Cheryl Thornhill, the president of the civic club.

After a military transport plane broke apart in mid-air in July 2017 and crashed into soybean fields at the western edge of Leflore County, Brenda Grubb felt compelled to do what she could to comfort the families of the 16 servicemen who died about 4 miles from her home.

“I kept thinking over and over, ‘How would I feel if my son died thousands of miles away? Would anybody even care that my son died?’” the retired educator from Moorhead told the Greenwood Rotary Club Tuesday.

A self-professed “card sender,” Grubb started off by gathering the names and addresses of the families so the Moorhead Garden Club could send them sympathy cards and cards for appropriate holidays. She also started collecting articles from newspapers and magazines and sending those to the families, none of which live in Mississippi.

“I got everything ... I could find,” she said.

She also became heavily involved with planning ceremonies to mark the first anniversary of the crash, which investigators would eventually attribute to a corroded propeller blade that broke free during flight. The KC-130T aircraft went by the call signal “Yanky 72.”

Relatives of all 15 Marines and one Navy corpsman aboard the doomed plane traveled to Leflore County to visit the crash site and attend the unveiling of a permanent memorial in Itta Bena.

Grubb said spending time on the “sacred ground” of the crash site was particularly moving for the grieving families. “They said that was one of the most healing parts of their coming.”

Grubb praised Greenwood for the support many of its businesses and individuals provided in the days and weeks after the crash as well as at the inaugural memorial weekend.

“Greenwood just bent over backwards,” she said.

Grubb has turned all of her information-gathering about Yanky 72 into a museum of sorts, displaying her collection in a refurbished former train depot in Moorhead. She is now working on panels devoted to each of the 16 servicemen, hoping to tell the story about not only about their military career but their personal life as well.

She said that she has seen God’s hand at work throughout the tragedy and its aftermath, starting with the plane crashing in an unpopulated area so that no one was killed on the ground.

Grubb said she has developed a special bond with Ashley Kundrat, the wife of one of the fallen Marines, Staff Sgt. William Kundrat.

As Ashley Kundrat was getting ready to board a plane in Memphis following one of her visits to the Delta since the crash, Grubb said the widow told her, “If my Billy had to die, I’m so glad that it’s in Mississippi, where people really care.”

Contact Tim Kalich at 581-7243 or tkalich@gwcommonwealth.com.

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