The Town ’N County post office may be renamed in honor of a local airman killed earlier this year in a helicopter crash in Iraq.
Air Force Maj. Andreas O’Keeffe, a graduate of Tampa Bay Technical High School and the University of South Florida, was in the co-pilot seat aboard a Pave Hawk helicopter that crashed March 15 after taking off from a base in western Iraq. O’Keeffe, 37, and six others on board were killed.
Two of those men, Master Sgt. William R. Posch, 36, of Indialantic and Staff Sgt. Carl P. Enis, 31, of Tallahassee, belonged to the 308th Rescue Squadron based at Patrick Air Force Base in Cocoa Beach.
U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, a Tampa Democrat, announced Friday the passage of legislation by the House of Representatives honoring O’Keeffe. The bill included renaming the post office after O’ O’Keeffe, who was promoted posthumously.
"Major O’Keeffe represented the best that our Tampa community and America has to offer," Castor said in a statement. "On behalf of a grateful community and country, we honor his memory and service by naming the thriving U.S. post office in Town ‘N Country for him."
Florida Sen. Bill Nelson, also a Democrat, will sponsor the bill in the U.S. Senate.
O’Keeffe grew up in the Town ‘N Country area and attended Incarnation Catholic School before Tampa Bay Tech High School and the University of South Florida.
As a student, he served as an intern for Nelson before joining the Air National Guard in 2003. He served as an aircraft armament specialist before being commissioned as an officer and receiving his flight wings. During the same time, he received his law degree from Georgetown University, but chose to continue his military service: flying dangerous helicopter reconnaissance and rescue missions.
He deployed to Iraq three times, and to Afghanistan and the Horn of Africa. Following Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, he was part of a crew that rescued 2,000 victims of the storms.
"Major O’Keeffe’s family are longtime Hillsborough County residents and I have visited with Mary Ann, his mother, on a number of occasions to learn more about Major O’Keeffe’s life of service," Castor said. "It is vital to honor our local fallen community heroes in memorable ways. In dedicating a cornerstone of the Town ‘N Country community, we are honoring Major O’Keeffe and his role as a cornerstone in the love and service of our nation."
Castor said she introduced the measure in advance of Gold Star Mother’s and Family’s Day, which falls on the last Sunday of September. It honors the families of service members who made the ultimate sacrifice.
This year, it will be remembered at a memorial service held by the Gold Star Fathers of Florida at St. Alfred’s Episcopal Church located at 1601 Curlew Road, Palm Harbor.
The event will be from 10 a.m. to noon, with a ceremony beginning at 11 a.m. Mission BBQ will provide a complimentary luncheon immediately following the ceremony.
Contact Howard Altman at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 225-3112. Follow @haltman