About a week ago there was a large photo on the front page of the Daily Sentinel of a USAF pilot, Capt. William H. DuBois of New Castle, CO, who crashed in his F-16 while on duty in the Middle East. He and his new wife, Ashley, were standing in front of his USAF F-16 jet, smiling broadly. Both looked so proud, he of his beautiful wife and his impressive ride, she of her pilot. Unfortunately, there was a malfunction of some kind, and Capt. DuBois arrived back at the Grand Junction airport today in a coffin.
I think the Sentinel photo really hit home because I have a photo of my son Austin, also in front of an Air Force jet, for which he was responsible for maintenance. His name was even painted on the jet underneath the pilot’s name. I can see the pride in his face behind the big smile. It was the same type of photo, almost the same pose, only I’m lucky that my son wasn’t in such a hazardous position and that he came home from the Middle East. I don’t even want to imagine the feelings of Capt. DuBois’ wife and family.
Although there couldn’t be a sadder occasion, I was so proud to see how many local residents turned out to line Horizon Drive and 12th Street this afternoon. When the procession was delayed an hour, no one left, save for the very few that had no choice. If anything, it gave more people time to show up. All ages were represented, and hundreds of American flags. No matter what their feelings about the war, everyone wanted to show support for the troops and families. And all agreed, at least the sun was shining and it was a beautiful Colorado afternoon.
Motorcycle riding vets rode along as an Honor Guard, along with area Police and Fire vehicles, including Palisade’s Chief Tony Erickson. It was a very moving experience, but hopefully not one that is soon repeated. I would like to thank all who attended, you’ve elevated my faith in our community.