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These helicopter halos are named for two soldiers killed in action

Veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan — and many people who have trained at sandy places like the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California — know about the beautiful halo of light that surrounds helicopter blades at night when the air is full of dust.


(Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Daniel D. Kujanpaa)

What most people don't know is that photojournalist and Special Forces veteran Michael Yon learned that these halos didn't have a name and so decided to give them one. He chose to honor two soldiers, an American and a Brit who died from wounds suffered in Afghanistan in 2009.

The Kopp-Etchells effect is named for U.S. Army Ranger Cpl. Benjamin Kopp and British Cpl. Joseph Etchells. Kopp was a soldier shot and MEDEVACed to the U.S. where he later died. His organs were donated, including his heart which went to a family member's friend.

Etchells was an infantryman and athlete known for how well he prepared his men for combat. He died of injuries suffered during an explosion on a foot patrol.

(Photo: U.S. Army Sgt. Michael J. MacLeod)

Jill Stephenson, Kopp's mother, later learned about the halos named for her son and told Fox News in 2013 that she was deeply touched by the gesture.

"What I see in it, even four years later, is the beauty in a tragedy," she said.