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Broadview native among the founders of VFW post in Australia

Posted: August 18, 2017

by Tess Wolfe

 

As a teenager, Cherish McNamara attended a Cleveland Air Show that left her aiming for the skies. Seeing and hearing the military aircraft fly overhead solidified her desire to fly.

 

“I just knew that’s what I wanted to do,” the Broadview Heights native recalled. “It was like a light bulb just went off in my head. I cannot explain the feeling.”

 

McNamara graduated from Brecksville-Broadview Heights High School in 1993 and joined the Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps at Wright State University. With a bachelor’s degree in business management, she served as a pilot in the U.S. Air Force for 10 years and had earned the rank of major when she was honorably discharged in 2007.

 

Now, as senior vice commander, McNamara is second in command at the first and only VFW post in Australia, where she lives with her husband, Clarke, and their children, Liam, 7, and Cailin, 5.

 

“She was flying over in Iraq and Afghanistan when she met a C130 pilot from Australia,” said McNamara’s father, Ed Krutil. 

 

After a long-distance relationship, the couple married at a centuries-old castle while both were stationed in Bath, England. Her husband is from Perth, the capital of Western Australia, and most of his family lived there. The couple decided to make Perth their home.

 

While in the Air Force, McNamara was stationed in Japan and the United Kingdom and was deployed to the Middle East. She recalled landing and taking off from Baghdad International Airport, using the taxiway as the runway because the runway was too badly damaged from bombs. 

 

A brighter note was meeting Robin Williams and David Letterman when they flew in to entertain troops for United Service Organization shows.

 

Among her experiences in the Air Force, she vividly recalled Sept. 11, 2001, the date she said “changed everything.” When she woke up that morning, expecting to fly an aeromedical evacuation mission, she called the operations unit to check on the status of the mission. Instead, she was told to turn on her TV. With all flights in the United States grounded, the aerovac mission became a life-and-death situation that still needed to happen.

 

“We had to evacuate a military personnel member,” McNamara said. “When we were airborne, it was very eerie. There were no other aircraft. No one else on the radios.” 

 

Other than essential fighter and reconnaissance aircraft, McNamara said hers was the only U.S. aircraft to fly that day. While she has never flown in a similar situation since, her team was able to save the patient’s life.

 

Krutil and McNamara’s mother, Gwen Mullen, who are divorced, both still live in Broadview Heights, while her sister, Renee, lives in Florida. Krutil has called the city home for 25 years. 

 

“She’s pretty much her own person,” said Krutil. “Somehow she just had this dedication that she wanted to serve her country. I’m really proud of her for doing that.”

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