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After saving two lives and a plane, this airman will be honored in D.C.

Matthew Heath holds his son Levi after returning home from Afghanistan in October 2013 in the Sacramento airport.
Matthew Heath holds his son Levi after returning home from Afghanistan in October 2013 in the Sacramento airport. Special to The Telegraph

Capt. Matthew Heath was on a training flight with one of his students to Amarillo, Texas. They were making their approach when the student realized the engines were stuck at a lower power setting.

“When I saw the student move the throttle and nothing happened ... it was definitely nerve wracking to say the least,” Heath said.

But, Heath said, he immediately took control of the aircraft and started calculating how far they could get without having to eject from the plane.

He landed the plane safely, saving the lives of himself and his student and an $8.2 million plane, according to his certificate for the Air Education and Training Command Director of Safety Outstanding Airmanship Award.

Heath, who is from Warner Robins, will be honored again for his heroic actions by receiving the Koren Kolligian Jr. Trophy on June 27 at the Pentagon, according to the Air Force Safety Center.

“I’m very honored, very humbled to receive this award,” Heath said. “It’s really exciting.”

The Koren Kolligian Jr. Trophy recognizes aircrew members who utilize their skills to avoid or minimize the seriousness in injury, loss of life, aircraft damage or property damage during the occurrence of an accident. The award honors 1st Lt. Koren Kolligian Jr., who was declared missing in the line of duty on Sept. 14 1955, according to the Air Force Safety Center website.

The award is presented annually to one member of the Air Force by the Air Force chief of staff, according to the website.

Heath’s father, Tommy Heath, said when Matthew was a child, he knew he wanted to be in the military. Tommy said Matthew even dressed up as a military man for Halloween one year.

“He had an inkling of an idea that that’s what he wanted to do,” Tommy Heath said. “He is a service-oriented person.”

Heath graduated from Houston County High School and received a bachelor’s degree in Science in Aerospace Engineering from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. He serves as the chief of training for the 25th Flying Training Squadron at Vance Air Force Base in Oklahoma.

“Flying has always been a lifelong dream, and it’s always been a passion of mine to fly,” Heath said. “I also wanted to serve in the military, so what better way to do that than join the Air Force?”

Tommy Heath said with his son’s personality anybody can believe that he could save a plane.

“He’s kind of calm, cool and collective,” he said. “I’ve watched him in life. He never gets upset…. Nothing ever ruffles his feathers.”

Tommy Heath said he is very proud and excited that his son will receive this prestigious award, and they plan to bring a group of people to watch Heathvreceive it in Washington, D.C.

“When he first said he got the award, we were like, ‘Wow! Really?’” Tommy Heath said. “I’m glad he’s getting recognized, but I’m also glad that we’re getting the opportunity to go and witness it.”

President Jimmy Carter Leadership Program

Three local students have been named to the President Jimmy Carter Leadership Program, a program that honors the legacy of former President Jimmy Carter, at Georgia Southwestern State University, according to a news release.

Rachel Faulkner, of Perry, Nadia Ford, of Fort Valley and Christian Palmer, of Perry, will be enlisted in the program to develop their leadership skills in education, politics and community service, according to the release.

“Because this new leadership program is endorsed by President Carter himself, it was very important to GSW to select only the finest students from those who applied,” said Lynda Lee Purvis, the school’s vice president emerita for Academic Affairs and program director, in the release. “After a thorough review of the 39 applicants by the Applicant Review Committee, 20 were selected. These students not only achieved outstanding high school grade point averages and admission test scores, they demonstrated exceptional leadership in their high schools and contributed significantly to their communities.”

2019 Golden Achievement Award

The Houston County Board of Education Community Relations Department received the 2019 Golden Achievement Award from the National School Public Relations Association for their “13 Reasons Why Not: A Campaign of Hope and Resiliency,” according to a news release.

The campaign told the story of 13 teenagers and adults who have faced adversity to help encourage others and also provided resources for people seeking help, according to the release.

Jenna Eason is a multimedia reporter at The Telegraph and creates serviceable news around food, culture and people who make a difference in the Macon community. Jenna joined The Telegraph staff after graduating from Mercer University in May 2018 with a journalism degree.
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