A wake up call…

A wake-up call that was apparently needed, especially as we get further away from 9-11. This was in a paper in Phoenix…

A complaint and the reply:

A wake-up call from Luke’s jets
Jun. 23, 2005 12:00 AM
“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.”

The reply is classic, and a testament to the professionalism and heroism of the folks in the armed services. The response:

Regarding “A wake-up call from Luke’s jets” (Letters, Thursday):

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 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 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
CO 63rd Fighter Squadron, Luke Air Force Base

After sending out the above letter, I was sent back the rest of the story, which warmed my heart to hear…and highlighted a truth too often forgotten – that we almsot never have the whole story…

An apology from the heart to the airmen of Luke
Jul. 9, 2005 12:00 AM
Regarding “Flyby honoring fallen comrade” Letters, June 28):

I read with increasing embarrassment and humility the response to my unfortunate letter to The Republic concerning an Air Force flyby (“A wake-up call from Luke’s jets,” Letters, June 23).

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. – Tom MacRae, Peoria

It’s hard to un-ring the bell
Jul. 11, 2005 03:50 PM
Ian A. Macpherson. Tax attorney

On June 23, Mr. Tom MacRae of Peoria penned a letter to the editor complaining about the noise from a low-flying formation of F-16’s from Luke. On June 28, Lt. Col. Scott Pleus, Commander of the 63rd Fighter Squadron at Luke, responded by explaining that the flyover was in honor of Captain Jeremy Fresques. Captain Fresques, once stationed at Luke, was killed in Iraq on Memorial Day.

On Saturday, July 9, Mr. MacRae followed up with another letter to the editor expressing remorse and offering his apologies for his original letter.

There are lessons in these exchanges for all of us, especially these days.

First, make sure you’ve got all or as many of the facts as possible before reacting to something, especially in public. It is difficult to un-ring a bell.

Second, every time you run into an active duty serviceman or servicewoman, or one you know to be a veteran, shake his/her hand… and mean it. Because the fact that you are walking around with the ability to shake anyone’s hand is due, in one way or another, to their efforts and their service to the country.

Third, when you realize that you have made a mistake, fix it. Like Tom MacRae – a Navy man and veteran of Vietnam – has done. It would have been easy for him to simply ignore the letter from Lt. Col. Pleus and let the public’s brief attention span take care of the rest. Instead, he did the right thing: he apologized, publicly and sincerely. I am hopeful that Lt. Col. Pleus will have read the apology and that the friends and family of Captain Fresques will accept it.

Finally, the next time you see a formation of F-16s – or even a single one – slicing through the air and making a lot of noise, take heart. There will always be a good reason for them to be airborne.

Donna Douglass

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