On 10 May, 1996, a CH-46E Sea Knight helicopter and an AH-1W Super Cobra helicopter from Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 266 collided in a wooded area near Courthouse Bay on Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune during an exercise. The collision resulted in the deaths of 14 service members.
In the fall of 1996, family and friends of those who lost their lives formed the New River Aviation Memorial Foundation and raised money through personal and corporate contributions to create a memorial. The fundraising efforts resulted in a dedication ceremony on June 30, 2006 of the Marine Corps Air Station New River Aviation Memorial.
The memorial is located just inside the main gate of the installation and has become a place for personal reflection and remembrance, suitable for conducting re-enlistments, promotions and other small ceremonies. Originally named the “New River Aviation Memorial Park,” the site was a flag display that included the American, Marine Corps and North Carolina flags, and two of the six static displayed aircraft.
At the center of the memorial is a bronze memorial statue showing two Marines, one standing in a flight suit and the other kneeling. The Marine standing represents the aviation side of the Marine Corps for pilots and aircrew who have lost their lives flying MCAS New River-based aircraft. The kneeling Marine represents the ground side of the Marine Corps and those Marines, Sailors and other personnel who died defending our freedom. The granite base on which the Marines are standing is 5 feet high and 7 1/2 feet wide, and has 10 sides.
Etched on the sides of the pedestal are the five service emblems, Marine Corps aviator wings and one set of combat aircrew wings. Since the memorial is dedicated to all pilots, aircrew and other service members who have lost their lives while defending our freedom, the pedestal has no names inscribed on it. The granite pedestal is situated in the corner of the roundel, a series of three rings first used to mark Marine Corps aircraft during World War II.
There are markers and aircraft plaques placed throughout the Aviation Memorial containing historical and memorial-specific information. The site is landscaped for privacy so visitors may sit on any of the four granite benches unseen by passing traffic.