Approximately 1,000 mourners came together Feb. 6 to pay their respects to Maj. Lucas Gruenther, the F-16 pilot who was killed after his viper went missing off the coast of Italy on Jan. 28.
Gruenther, who went by the callsign “Gaza,” was posthumously promoted to major. He had been selected but was waiting to pin on the rank.
“Nothing I can say can put the emotional stress on the life and the hope and the ambition that he has given everyone he’s known,” said Maj. Travis Winslow, 555th Fighter Squadron pilot, according to an Air Force write-up of the memorial. “He is the quintessential role model.”
Gruenther, 32, was from California. He was assigned to the 555th Fighter Squadron at Aviano and had recently deployed to Afghanistan.
“He lived a live full of adventure and full of love,” his wife, Cassy, said, according to the Air Force story. “If he were here, he would challenge each and every one of you to go climb that mountain you’ve been waiting to climb, he would tell you to plan that trip you haven’t planned, he would tell you to call that friend you’ve been thinking about, and he would tell you to be sure to tell your loved ones you love them every day.”