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Friend and Neighbor Mourned

Former Alexandria Warrant Officer Killed in Helicopter Crash

Eileen Houser and Frances Sankey were planning to get together with their friend, Sharon Swartworth, when she came back from traveling. Sankey said that she wasn't sure where Swartworth was, but that she had been trying to get in touch with her.

On Friday, Houser and Sankey learned that Swartworth had been in Iraq, and realized that they would not be getting together with her. Chief Warrant Officer Sharon T. Swartworth was killed last Friday along with five other soldiers when the Black Hawk helicopter they were traveling in was shot down over Iraq.

"I think about her all day," said Sankey. "She was such a positive person and had a very sweet personality."

Both Houser and Sankey lived in the same Mount Vernon neighborhood where Swartworth lived in with her husband, Bill, and her son, Billy, for moe than 12 years. Bill, a Navy Officer, had recently been reassigned to Hawaii and had moved there with their son; Swartworth was living temporarily in Arlington.

"Sharon really loved her job," said Sankey. "She joined the Army when she was 17; for somebody with no college education, she went as high as she could. She was so incredibly focused."

Houser said that Swartworth had stayed behind after her husband and son moved to Hawaii because she wanted to finish her tour. They knew that she was going to Iraq, but they weren't sure when.

EVEN THOUGH SWARTWORTH was a high-ranking officer, Houser said that she didn't travel much until recently. Houser also said that even though she was dedicated to her job, she still had plenty of time to spend with her family and in her neighborhood.

"We had a lot of neighborhood parties, and she was always one to help organize," said Houser. "She was a big runner, and she and her husband spent a lot of time working out in the yard."

Houser also remembers her as "a great neighbor and a loving mother. Billy was an invitro baby and they were so excited when they had him."

Houser said that Sharon and Bill had bought a weekend house in Lake Anna and were always inviting people to come and visit; they had already extended the invitation for people to come visit them in Hawaii as well.

"We said that we would always keep in touch," said Sankey.

Another neighbor, Tom Shaw, said, "I remember most how she was really moved by what happened at the Pentagon on 9/11. The weeks she spent afterwards dealing with family members of the victims really wore her out emotionally but she hung in there knowing that she was helping them. She had a sense that she was spared from being a victim herself and it was the least she could do aside from it being her duty. We had talked about this on my front porch a few times when she would go for a walk with her son Billy."

PERHAPS PART of the reason that Swartworth felt compelled to help others after 9/11 was that she narrowly escaped being killed herself. Shortly before the attack; she had moved out of her old office. Had she stayed in that office, she would have been a target as the nose of the plane landed in her former office. A two-star general occupying the office at the time was killed.

Friends say that Swartworth's husband is making arrangements for his wife to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery, but a date has not yet been determined.