This is a true story, authenticated by Snopes.com. What follows is my compilation of Snopes’ account and an e-mail I received from beloved fellow FS.
Luke Air Force Base (AFB) is west of Phoenix, Arizona, and is rapidly being surrounded by residential construction whose residents regularly complain about the noise from the base and its planes, forgetting that it was there long before they were.
On June 15, 2005, a resident of Glendale, near Luke AFB, wrote a sarcastic letter to the local paper, The Arizona Republic, complaining about a group of F-16s that disturbed his day at the mall:
Question of the day for Luke Air Force Base:
Whom do we thank for the morning air show? Last Wednesday, at precisely 9:11 A.M, a tight formation of four F-16 jets made a low pass over Arrowhead Mall, continuing west over Bell Road at approximately 500 feet. Imagine our good fortune! Do the Tom Cruise-wannabes feel we need this wake-up call, or were they trying to impress the cashiers at Mervyns early bird special?
Any response would be appreciated.
Tom MacRae, Peoria
The next day, the paper received this response from Col. Robin Rand, Commander of Luke AFB’s 56th Fighter Wing:
Luke Air Force Base was asked to respond to a letterwriter’s question about a “morning air show” he observed recently (“A wakeup call from Luke’s jets,” Letter, Thursday):
The “wake-up call” witnessed the morning of June 15 was a formation of F-16 jets from Luke AFB lining up for a memorial service in Sun City at the gravesite for Air Force Capt. Jeremy Fresques, an officer assigned to Air Force Special Operations. Fresque gave his life in defense of our country while serving in Iraq.
It is unfortuante that at a time when our nation is at war someone should believe we have less than honorable and professional reasons for such a mission.
The commander of the fighter squadron [Lt. Col. Pleus] was given the difficult duty of informing the family of Capt. Fresques on Memorial Day that the officer, a husband, son and Arizonan, had died in Iraq.
On behalf of the men and women at Luke AFB, we continue to keep Jeremy and his family in our thoughts and prayers.
Col. Robin Rand, Luke Air Force Base
Four days later, the newspaper also published a response from Lt. Col. Pleus himself:
Regarding “A wake-up call from Luke’s jets”:
On June 15, at precisely 9:12 a.m., a perfectly timed four-ship of F-16s from the 63rd Fighter Squadron at Luke Air Force Base flew over the grave of Capt. Jeremy Fresques.
Capt. Fresques was an Air Force officer who was previously stationed at Luke AFB and was killed in Iraq on May 30, Memorial Day.
At 9 a. m. on June 15, his family and friends gathered at Sunland Memorial Park in Sun City to mourn the loss of a husband, son and friend.
Based on the letter writer’s recount of the flyby, and because of the jet noise, I’m sure you didn’t hear the 21-gun salute, the playing of taps, or my words to the widow and parents of Capt. Fresques as I gave them their son’s flag on behalf of the President of the United States and all those veterans and servicemen and women who understand the sacrifices they have endured.
A four-ship flyby is a display of respect the Air Force gives to those who give their lives in defense of freedom. We are professional aviators and take our jobs seriously, and on June 15 what the letter writer witnessed was four officers lining up to pay their ultimate respects.
The letter writer asks, ‘Whom do we thank for the morning air show?”
The 56th Fighter Wing will make the call for you, and forward your thanks to the widow and parents of Capt Fresques, and thank them for you, for it was in their honor that my pilots flew the most honorable formation of their lives.
Lt. Col. Scott Pleus, Luke Air Force Base
To his credit, the complainant Tom MacRae did write an apology that was published in The Arizona Republic on July 9.
Capt. Jeremy Fresque, 26, died in a plane crash alongside three fellow soldiers during a training mission near Baghdad. Fresque, a graduate of the prestigious Air Force Academy in Colorado, had been promoted to captain just that morning. Fresques had been chief of communications and an information officer at Luke Air Force Base in Glendale before transferring to special operations in 2002. Other Americans killed in the crash were Maj. William Downs, 40, of Winchester, Va.; Capt. Derek Argel, 28, of Lompoc, Calif.; and Staff Sgt. Casey Crate, 26, of Spanaway, Wash. Fresques, Argel and Crate were assigned to the Air Force 23rd Special Tactics Squadron, while Downs was part of the 6th Special Operations Squadron. All were based at Hurlburt Field, Fla.
The e-mail that beloved fellow FS forwarded to me contained this addendum by a “Lt. Col. Grant L. Rosensteel, Jr., USAF”: