In early June, an Islip resident who died in 1980 was honored with a memorial plaque at the Francis S. Gabreski Air National Guard Base in Westhampton Beach. Larry Arnott, a member of the 106th Rescue Wing Unit of the New York Air National Guard, died during a training mission in Nevada when he was 30 years old.
Former members of the group, which performs combat rescue, banded together to raise about $7,500 for a monument for Arnott. There are already monuments on the base for Rick Smith, who perished during the 1991 Halloween nor’easter known as the “Perfect Storm,” as well as a monument in upstate New York to honor seven men who died while returning from a training mission.
“But we never took care of Larry, and Larry had passed away,” said Tim Malloy, a former member of the group and friend of Arnott’s. “He was contributing just as much as everybody else.”
Malloy was in Nevada when Arnott died and described how difficult it was to lose him, especially because the group was so close and at the time there were approximately only 300 PJs, or pararescue men, in the field.
Both Malloy and former member Jay Jinks told a story about Arnott that truly captured his personality.
“Larry was a big runner,” Jinks said. “He used to love to go out for long runs. It wouldn’t be surprising sometimes to get a phone call [from him], ‘Come pick me up, I’m out towards Montauk.’ That was Larry.”
Malloy said it wasn’t until many of the PJs who knew Arnott had retired that they began to think about honoring those who had made the ultimate sacrifice.
“We were so busy working and traveling and going overseas, that taking care of those that came before us wasn’t a priority,” Malloy said. “After I retired, Jay Jinks was a big pusher for remembering those that came before us.”
Even now, Jinks and Malloy said the former PJs are very close. Every two years, they have a big meetup in different locations. The two even do CrossFit together.
Every year Malloy goes out to Calverton, where Arnott is buried, to honor him and tell stories.
“Larry was a great guy and did a lot,” Jinks said. “[He] was always there. Was a great team player, and you’re always part of the team.”
“He was a patriot,” Malloy said. “He loved this country.”