This story is actually four years old, but many people seem to have discovered it only recently, so I did a little investigating, and thought it was worth sharing with you. Because this has made its way around the Internet, like the game of “Telephone,” new things have been added and some things have changed as it’s been forwarded. My staff went back to the original story to verify the facts, and that’s the one I’m posting here.
Luke Air Force Base is a little west of Phoenix, and it’s surrounded by residential developments. People have complained about the noise from the base and its planes. One day in June, 2005, an individual who lives somewhere near the base wrote the local paper complaining about the group of F-16s that disturbed his day. Here’s his Letter to the Editor of The Arizona Republic newspaper:
“Question of the day for Luke Air Force Base: Whom do we thank for the morning air show?
Last Wednesday, at precisely 9:11AM, 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.
Mr. MacRae received a response from a commander at Luke Air Force Base which was published in the newspaper the following day, but it’s the response from Lt. Col. Scott Pleus, commander of the 63rd Fighter Squadron at Luke Air Force Base that caught the attention of everyone. This letter was also published in The Arizona Republic, four days after Mr. MacRae’s initial complaint:
“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 Air Force Base 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 pays to those who gave 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 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”
The postscript to all of this is that Mr. MacRae, to his credit, wrote an apology that was published in The Arizona Republic on July 9:
“Regarding ‘Flyby honoring fallen comrade’
I read with increasing embarrassment and humility the response to my unfortunate letter to The Republic concerning an Air Force flyby.
I had no idea of the significance of the flyby, and would never have insulted such a fine and respectful display had I known.
I have received many calls from the fine airmen who are serving or have served at Luke, and I have attempted to explain my side and apologized for any discomfort my letter has caused.
This was simply an uninformed citizen complaining about noise.
I have been made aware in both written and verbal communications of the four-ship flyby, and my heart goes out to each and every lost serviceman and woman in this war in which we are engaged.
I have been called un-American by an unknown caller and I feel that I must address that. I served in the U.S. Navy and am a Vietnam veteran. I love my country and respect the jobs that the service organizations are doing.
Please accept my heartfelt apologies.