Last flight home: A hero remembered

Marine Corps Base Quantico Ceremonial Platoon provided honors for Lt. Col. Paul C. Hudson at Dulles International Airport, Sterling Va., Feb. 5, 2020. Hudson was one of the three men to pass away in the C-130 Hercules Aerial Water Tanker crash while battling the wild fires of Australia. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Paige M. Verry)
February 06, 2020

Lt. Col. Paul C. Hudson, a retired Marine, firefighter and loving husband, was delivered with planeside honors to Dulles International Airport, Sterling, Virginia, February 5, 2020.

The air fell silent as Metropolitan Washington Fire Rescue members paid their respects. Jet engines rumbled the ground beneath the tarmac and emergency vehicles flashed red, white and blue lights as the fire department created an arch of water for the aircraft to taxi underneath.

Marine Corps Base Quantico Ceremonial Platoon was called to attention, then began marching towards the fallen hero.

“This is a Marine, who served the Marine Corps for 20 years,” said Lt. Col. William B. Millett, a close friend of the fallen Marine throughout their military service. “He fought in Afghanistan and continued on to serve as a firefighter.”

Hudson, a native of Buckeye, Arizona., was fighting the wildfires in New South Whales, Australia, when the KC-130 Hercules aerial water tanker he was aboard crashed, resulting in three casualties.

Australian officials, to include Ambassador Mitch Fifield, and Air Force Maj. Gen. Andrew Freeman, attended the ceremony to pay their respects for his sacrifice to their country.

The Marine Corps Base Quantico Ceremonial Platoon learned of the repatriation ceremony and immediately volunteered to provide honors. The Marines had only 48 hours to prepare themselves for the ceremony.

“Within 48 hours I had to organize transport, arrival times, preparing the detail, rehearsing for the ceremony, and coordinate with the Dulles operations and Dulles PD,” said Cpl. Andre J. Bastian, non-commissioned officer in charge of Marine Corps Base Quantico Ceremonial Platoon.