Four F-16 Fighting Falcons from the 388th Fighter Wing flew over a funeral in Garland, Utah, April 6 to salute a U.S. Air Force officer who died March 30.
The flyover for Lt. Col. Heber Marsh Butler, 90, followed his burial with military honors accorded by the Combined Veterans of Box Elder County at Garland Cemetery.
The sight and sound of the low-flying F-16s brought forth tears of joy to the nearly 150 funeral attendees, who said they were grateful for the most fitting tribute to an America patriot and hero of three wars.
"As the four-ship appeared over the trees of the small cemetery, all eyes were upon them as they performed flawlessly," said retired Air Force Lt. Col. Seth Jensen, Butler's nephew.
"Many eyes were wet as we witnessed the missing man aircraft depart, straight up, symbolizing our departed comrade and loved one," he said.
To Rose Marie Hensley, Butler's daughter, it was a most fitting tribute.
"It was such an emotional moment to see my father, who greatly loved his country and the Air Force, so honored," she said.
Butler served 33 years of military service and was a veteran of three wars including World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. He also has two confirmed aerial victories.
The pilots who conducted the flyover commemorating Butler's service were a mix of active duty and reserve Airmen from the 388th and 419th Fighter Wings at Hill AFB. The two wings commonly partner together on missions and flyovers.
The pilots were Maj. Scott Laroche, Lt. Col. Paul Delmonte, Lt. Col. Terry George and Capt. John DiFebo.
Col. Scott Long, 388th FW commander, thanked the pilots and maintainers for quickly working together to provide the flyover.
"Hats off to all of you for playing a part in honoring Lt. Col. Butler and helping to make it a memorable day for his family," he said.
To the pilots and maintenance personnel these flyovers are a way to honor and say thanks to the many supportive communities surrounding Hill Air Force Base and to commemorate someone's military service and dedication.
"A missing man flyover is a solemn and rare salute reserved for individuals who made exceptional sacrifice, and it's often in memory of a fallen pilot," said Constance Delamater, Hill AFB Mortuary Affairs.
"It was a distinct privilege to help honor a fallen warrior," said Lt. Col. James Greenwald, a 419th FW pilot who coordinated the flyover.
"All of these pilots are veterans of combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, where today's Airmen continue the proud tradition of service exemplified by past heroes such as Lt. Col. Heber Marsh Butler," Greenwald said.