ST. LOUIS – Visitation and funeral services have been announced for two Missouri soldiers who died last month in a military helicopter crash.
Chief Warrant Officer 3 Zachary Esparza, of Jackson, and Chief Warrant Officer 2 Rusten Smith, of Rolla, were killed on March 29, when the Black Hawk helicopters they were riding in crashed near Fort Campbell during a nighttime training exercise. Esparza was 36; Smith was 32.
Both men served in the United States Army’s 101st Airborne Division.
Seven other soldiers were killed in the crash. Esparza and two others were posthumously promoted to the next rank.
Smith was raised in St. James, Missouri, and graduated from John F. Hodge High School in 2009. He enlisted in the Army in 2012 and became a Black Hawk pilot. He served multiple tours in Afghanistan and Eastern Europe.
Esparza, a St. Louis native, graduated from Bayless High School in 2005 and later attended Southeast Missouri State. He joined the Army in 2010 and deployed to Afghanistan from 2013-14, and later served as a pilot instructor for the 101st Division’s Combat Aviation Brigade.
Hoffmeister South County Chapel will host visitation services for Esparza on Sunday, April 16, from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. The funeral will take place at 10 a.m. the following day, at Crosspoint Church, 5001 Little Road Road. Esparza will be buried with full military honors at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery in south St. Louis County. Condolences for the Esparza family may be shared at HoffmeisterSouthCounty.com.
Visitation and funeral services for Smith are scheduled for Saturday, April 15, at St. James Middle School Gymnasium. The visitation will be from 11 a.m. to noon, with the memorial service taking place at 1 p.m. Smith will be buried with full military honors at the Missouri Veterans Cemetery at Fort Leonard Wood in Waynesville. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that any donations be given to Brotallion Blue Skies Foundation.