Off Beat: First Citizen records history; soldier son makes his own

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photo Pat Jollota is the 2012 Clark County First Citizen.

(/The Columbian)

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Pat Jollota has written about a lot of historic Clark County families.

She was surprised a while ago to learn about her own family's role in a more recent chapter of history, almost half a world away.

Her son was part of an event we know as "Black Hawk Down."

Pat Jollota was recognized recently as 2012 First Citizen for contributions that include city council service, her work on behalf of abused children and a commitment to local history.

Dan Jollota is an Army helicopter pilot. He was one of the rescuers who responded to a 1993 battle in Mogadishu, Somalia, that killed 18 Americans.

"The work Dan does, he doesn't tell anyone what he's doing," Jollota said during an interview that strayed a bit from her "First Citizen" credentials.

"When Time magazine came out with an article about it, his brother called and told me to get the magazine," she said.

That was shortly after her husband Jake died, she recalled. After reading the article, Pat took the magazine to Jake's grave at Parkhill Cemetery: "I rolled it up and left it in the vase holder on the marker."

Dan Jollota was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. Mark Bowden included him in the acclaimed book, "Black Hawk Down," the basis for the 2001 film. (Jason Hildebrandt portrayed Jollota).

When Pat Jollota saw the film, she took along friends Dick and Joyce Malin.

"I'd had experience with military helicopters," Dick Malin said, "and a forearm she could sink her fingernails in."

At one point, Jollota's Blackhawk helicopter was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade while delivering a rescue team.

"That's what shook Pat up," Malin said.

"I grabbed Dick's arm when the battle was under way," she acknowledged. Even though she knew her son came out fine, "It still was stomach-turning."

Jollota bought a video copy of the film, but …

"I've never opened it," she said. "I couldn't leave it in the store. And I couldn't watch it."-- Tom Vogt

Off Beat lets members of The Columbian news team step back from our newspaper beats to write the story behind the story, fill in the story or just tell a story.