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Del City dedicates E-3 replica to fallen Airman

A crowd gathers at the site of the “AWACS Park” for the dedication of a memorial for Staff Sgt. Daniel Fannin, a former member of the 552nd Operations Support Squadron. Sergeant Fannin’s E-3 AWACS replica was one of three to be dedicated on April 4 at the park located just across the street from Tinker Air Force Base off of Sooner Road.  (Air Force photo by Darren D. Heusel)

A crowd gathers at the site of the “AWACS Park” for the dedication of a memorial for Staff Sgt. Daniel Fannin, a former member of the 552nd Operations Support Squadron. Sergeant Fannin’s E-3 AWACS replica was one of three to be dedicated on April 4 at the park located just across the street from Tinker Air Force Base off of Sooner Road. (Air Force photo by Darren D. Heusel)

TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. -- By her own admission, Sonya Fannin's greatest fear after her husband was killed last year in a plane crash in Afghanistan was that his legacy would soon be forgotten.

But, members of the Del City community soon laid that fear to rest when they dedicated a replica of an E-3 "Sentry" Airborne Warning and Control System aircraft in honor of Staff Sgt. Daniel Fannin during a ceremony April 4.

Sergeant Fannin's E-3 replica in "AWACS Park" located just west of Tinker Air Force Base on Sooner Road now brings the total number of AWACS replicas in the park to six. Plans originally called for placing a total of 10 aircraft in the park.

Two other E-3 replicas were also dedicated during the ceremony: one for Del City Councilman Ken Bartlett and his wife, JoAnn; and the other for World War II veterans to include the grandfathers of State Representative Scott Inman, D-Del City, and his wife, Dessa, and their two daughters, Ella and Sophia, as well as prominent Del City citizens James and Jimmie Nolen.

"Everyone reassures me that Daniel won't be forgotten, but nonetheless, it has been my biggest fear that he might be," Sonya told the crowd of about 300 on a chilly, sun-soaked morning outside the Sooner Gate. "But, this memorializes his very essence, his giving spirit in a way which those in the public can see."

Sergeant Fannin, a sensor operator assigned to the 552nd Operations Support Squadron at Tinker, died April 27, 2013, nearly two weeks after his 30th birthday along with three other Airmen when the MC-12 aircraft they were flying in went down near Kandahar Airfield.

"Memorializing Danny here in this public park, a place in which our civilian friends and family can visit and heal on their own time, is truly special," Sonya added.

In addition to Rep. Inman, Councilman Bartlett and the Nolens, those also attending the ceremony included Del City Mayor Brian Linley, Midwest City Mayor Jack Fry, Oklahoma County Commissioner Willa Johnson and Oklahoma Adjutant General Myles Deering.

Also on hand were: 552nd Air Control Wing Commander Col. Jay Bickley; 552nd ACW Vice Commander Col. Brian Humphrey; 552nd Operations Group Commander Col. John Cooper, 552nd Air Control Group Commander Col. Alex Koven and 552nd Command Chief Master Sgt. Avery Woolridge, among others.

"It is a very touching and fitting tribute to our fallen hero," Colonel Bickley said following the ceremony. "His sacrifice for our nation will forever be memorialized."

Colonel Bickley also praised the base's relationship with the local community and said he is "constantly humbled by the overwhelming support we receive from them."

Sergeant Fannin, originally from Morehead, Ky., joined the Air Force on Aug. 28, 2001 after graduating high school there.

During Sergeant Fannin's 11 years of service, he served as an E-3 Air Surveillance Technician as well as a MC-12 Sensor Operator. While in Afghanistan, Sergeant Fannin was assigned to the 361st Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron as a member of the 451st Air Expeditionary Wing at Kandahar Air Base.

Sergeant Fannin was qualified as an instructor Air Surveillance Technician and was an experienced instructor in the E-3. Prior to his final operations assignment, Sergeant Fannin served with distinction in the 960th Airborne Air Control Squadron at Tinker.
Sergeant Fannin completed three deployed tours as an E-3 AWACS Air Surveillance Technician and MC-12 Sensor Operator. He was well known and respected throughout the 552nd ACW.

Among his many awards were the Bronze Star Medal, the Air Medal with two oak leaf clusters, the Air Force Commendation Medal with oak leaf cluster and the Air Force Achievement Medal.

Sergeant Fannin met his wife Sonya, of Oklahoma City, while stationed at Tinker.
Inscribed on the tail of the E-3 replica honoring Sergeant Fannin are the words, "Service Before Self," one of the Air Force core values that those who knew the Airman say he lived and died by.