Members of the Columbus Air Force Base honored one of their fallen comrades Thursday afternoon, recognizing the late Capt. Jeffrey Hill for his service as well as his sacrifice.
Hill, 31, completed a three-year tour in Columbus before being transferred in 2008 to what Col. Barre Seguin called “his dream assignment” as a C-17 pilot at Elmendorf Air Force Base in Alaska. He died on July 28, 2010 when his plane crashed while practicing for the Arctic Thunder Air Show.
His name was added to CAFB”s Wing Memorial Wall in the Richard “Gene” Smith Plaza in front of the base headquarters and unveiled during Thursday”s memorial service.
One side of the marble wall features the names of Air Force Medal of Honor recipients, while the other side — the side on which Hill is listed — honors CAFB graduates who have died in military aircraft accidents.
He was also recognized with a flag folding ceremony, the playing of “Taps,” a 21-gun salute, and the flyover of T-38C aircraft flying in the missing man formation, a tribute for fallen pilots.
Seguin encouraged attendees to take the opportunity to reflect upon the integrity, service, and sacrifice of those who have lost their lives serving the United States, whether in the jungles of Vietnam or the caves of Iraq and Afghanistan.
“We all have our personal stories of heroes amongst us,” Seguin said. “Reflect on the heroes in your life and the values they embodied that made you who you are.”
Hill was remembered as “an exceptional pilot” who loved his family, the Air Force, and the great outdoors.
He participated in missions supporting Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom, humanitarian missions in Haiti following the January 2010 earthquake, and supply missions following the Gulf oil spill last summer. In his spare time, he could often be found at CAFB, working with student pilots.
“Jeff tackled every day of his life with enthusiasm, a great attitude, a smile, and a little witty sarcasm,” CAFB officials said. “He was an absolute joy to be around. His personality was infectious and drew people to him. He gave his life in support of his country, and he will be greatly missed by his family, friends, co-workers, and everyone fortunate enough to know him.”
Hill is survived by his wife, Rachael, his sons, T.J. and Tyler; his father, Robert; his mother, Carol; his sister, Jackie; and the numerous friends he made over the years.
Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz issued a written Memorial Day statement to members of the U.S. Air Force and their families earlier in the day on Thursday.
In the message, they encouraged airmen to remember those who remain missing in action, including more than 1,600 in Vietnam, 8,000 in Korea, and 73,000 Americans who served in WWII.
“This year, as we observe Memorial Day, let us renew not only our solemn gratitude for their sacrifice; let us also renew our thankfulness for having the privilege to serve such an exceptional nation,” the statement said. “Your sacrifices, and those of your families, have earned America”s respect. Our proud nation is truly grateful for your service.”
Carmen K. Sisson is the former news editor at The Dispatch.
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