CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Many little girls look up to their fathers, but for Josie Tuttle-Trimnal, it’s literal.
“As far as my whole lifetime, he was always a pilot,” she said.
Eyes to the sky, she could hear her father approaching.
“He always landed his helicopter in our yard. All the neighborhood kids would be like ‘Josie and Donnie’s daddy’s here.'”
The then outgoing 11-year-old loved being the child of an Army pilot living all over the world including in Clarksville.
“I went to Byrns Darden Elementary. Ms. King if you’re still out there – hi!,” said Tuttle-Trimnal with a laugh.
Her father, CW3 William Tuttle, a decorated Vietnam War veteran was a subject matter expert in 1982. He was recruited to help grow a newly formed unit at Ft. Campbell, which is widely recognized today as the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment or The Night Stalkers.
“A lot of the things that the early Night Stalkers did was training. The unit back then was perfecting the use of night vision goggles because everything is done in the dark,” recalled Tuttle-Trimnal.
A big mission was on the horizon and Tuttle, an instructor pilot for the Black Hawk helicopter, was tasked with figuring out the best use of the bulky goggles.
“Every time he left, we did not know where he was going, and we didn’t know what he was doing. And when he came back, we still didn’t know where he’d went or what he was doing!” she exclaimed.
And this time, she’d never know. On Oct 4th, 1983, her family received tragic news.
“It was off the coast of Panama that my dad’s helicopter went down. They never recovered his body,” she said.
Tuttle’s copilot also died. Three weeks later, The Night Stalkers engaged in Operation Urgent Fury – the American invasion of Grenada.
“I know what my dad did helped to develop new training. It was a journey coming to this attitude, but I trust in the greater mission,” said Tuttle-Trimnal.
As president of the non-profit “Families Of Fallen Night Stalkers” she continues to share her story with others.
“We are here to love each other. We are here to support each other and to be a family because we have all been there, unfortunately,” she said.
37 years after her father’s sacrifice, she has added to their story thanks to a recently discovered note hiding inside a card from her first birthday.
“The way that it fell out, it opened an additional time. So not only did it open this way, but it opened this way, and I never knew that before. The last line read – just always remember, no matter what happens daddy loves you with all his heart,” she read.
She draws strength from the message memorialized in her father’s handwriting now tattooed on her forearm.
“Although I miss my father every single day of the year, I am incredibly proud of the sacrifice that he made,” Tuttle-Trimnal continued, for a country he loved.