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F-15 Down in North Sea - 15 Jun 20


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As I think back, it seems like Kage has always been setting the example.

All he ever wanted to be is a fighter pilot. We both put our names up for ENJJPT. I didn’t make the cut, and he was an alternate, even though he had a strong package (sts). I remember I was kinda bummed, but it didn’t seem to phase him. He was already focused on the next thing with a smile on his face. In UPT he was a few classes ahead, and every time I saw him I would bother him with questions. Didn’t matter what was going on, he would take the time to talk with me. I used his instrument gouge in T-6s where he effectively summarized the entire 217 into an easy-to-study format. It must’ve taken him forever to write. He was the same way in 38s, never too busy to give me advice. Truthfully, I looked up to him as a pilot. He was a natural talent, worked his ass off, and knew his stuff cold. His passing has made me think about the example that I have set for others, and whether I would be so lucky to be remembered the same way. We lost a good one.

A toast 🥃 

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Kage was a classmate of mine and we went through pilot training together. He was one of the most genuine and happy dudes I've ever met, and he loved flying airplanes. Anyone who knows him would say he is someone they aspired to be like and he will be sorely missed. Here's a toast...

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Some words from his OH-58D pilot brother:

“If you can keep your head, when all about you,
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,

If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you, 
But make allowance for their doubting too...

If you can dream and not make dreams your master...

If you can meet with triumph and disaster,
And treat those two imposters just the same...

And lose and start again at your beginnings,
And never breath a word about your loss...

If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve you long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the will which says to them; “Hold On!”

If you can walk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much.

If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—YOU’LL BE A MAN, MY SON!”

Years ago, Kage mentioned to me he liked this poem, “IF” by Rudyard Kipling. I read it and instantly fell in love with that poem and scribbled it into my green Army notebook. I’ve reread that poem probably 1000 times.

Kage embodied the very essence of Kipling’s exhortation. 

He was ever-composed and brought calm to any situation. His stoic nature drew men to him and he was able to lead without ever losing that common touch. He dreamed and strove diligently to fill the very measure of his creation.

Not too long ago, we brothers met up in uniform and honored the passing of our WWII vet grandfather. We were all in tears while we folded the flag over his casket and knelt to deliver it to our sweet grandmother.

Soon, Jacob and I will stand over another casket, at another gravesite... Kage will be between us yet again. But this time he won’t help fold the flag, he will be draped in it.

We love you Kage. Always. You aren’t just my kid’s hero and my rascally kid brother, you are a MAN, and a beloved son. 

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More words from his army brother: 

Eagle Driver. Fighter Pilot. Airman. Warrior. There were many titles Kage sought after and achieved.  But a none-too-hidden secret was his status as both favorite son amongst the siblings and favorite uncle among extended family. 

Honestly, none of us minded. We sorta had to accept that his status as favorite was well-deserved. 

A couple years ago my sister named her baby son, “Kage.” I just shrugged and was like, makes sense.

He was just so doggone good to everyone around him. One second he would be twirling around with a toddler and telling silly jokes, and the next he would be—literally—discussing Astro-physics with adults (my Dad, not me, obviously).

In these pics you see Kage in his element, even flying a mission with my other Air Force brother, Jacob, as he refueled Kage’s F15 on a sortie. Kage was just a magnanimous, thoughtful, yet lethally capable fighter. He did everything 110%, he would love you with all his heart and might and he poured passion into every endeavor.  

God has a plan for all of us. But, as far as I’m concerned, He took this one too soon. 

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“If words could make wishes come true, I’d save every day like a treasure and then, again, I would spend them with you.”
-Jim Croce (one of Kage’s favorite songs)

Not all know it, but my youngest brother, Stephen, has Down’s syndrome. He is the sweetest kid, we all love him and he loves us. But he and Kage were youngest and second youngest in our family and incredibly close. If possible, Stephen would have joined the Air Force right along Kage so he could be a fighter pilot too! 

Stevey struggles to communicate, his words come out a bit mumbled. No one can really fully comprehend them, not even mom...but Kage could. Kage was our go-to interpreter. He and Stephen were just bound together, best of friends and kindred spirits. No one is taking this loss harder than him, the poor guy. Kage was his protector all through school and Kage, no one teased Stephen if big bro Kage was around. He was his best friend, always will be.

We love you Kage, thanks for showing us what unconditional kindness and love looks like. 

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Last one I’ll share. There are more, but I’ll leave it at these:

So, I guess sleeping through the night is a thing of the past now.

There are too many emotions, too many memories, too much pain to sleep. Didn’t see that last part coming. I mean, I’ve lost friends in combat to death’s heartless and seemingly arbitrary embrace. Those deaths left me numb and clinging to the denial stage of grief. 

But Kage. Not with Kage. 

I LONG for numbness. Instead, it’s a serrated knife to the gut. Physical pain that coils me up and chokes my throat and it’s only Sara’s arms around my shoulders that bring me will to even reopen my eyes.

I don’t know how his wife, Hannah, is remaining so elegantly composed. God’s grace I guess, what else could it be.

I have to admit something. And forgive me for doing it, but there is a phrase that is appearing in newsfeeds and broadcasts that angers me deeply. 

“He died on a routine training flight...”


How dare you. I know there are strategic implications in all this. I’m no neophyte. I was just in Europe a couple months ago for NATO exercises. Got it, things with Russia are tricky. Calling it routine really alleviates some of the baseless conspiracy theories. But how about this, let’s call it a “training flight.” Done. Kaput. Fini.

KAGE was the consummate aviator. He had his private pilots license within months of his drivers license. He earned his spot on USAFA’s flying team, went to Chile to serve God for 2 years, then came back and earned a spot on the flying team again. He was top stick of his basic flight training class. Top stick in fighter training and he flew as a recreational pilot on the side in weather conditions that would have me shaking in my boots. He packed more takeoffs and landings and aerobatic maneuvers into his short career than I have in more than a decade.

Nothing KAGE ever did was routine. He was articulate, precise, deliberate, and razor sharp in everything he did and I have no doubt he did not see his last flight as routine. He was passionately and tenaciously honing his skills to be the absolute best weapon in America’s Arsenal. 

While he and I were both separate from our wives, before he died, he called me and we had a nice long brother chat. We made fun of politicians, laughed about mutual friends, talked about my kids and my dog, shared ideas about how to have a long distance video date with his wife. Then he said something I’ll never forget.

“You know Chaz, every time I strap into that cockpit I think, ‘this could be it. This could be my last flight.’ I am pushing the envelope like I never have before and I’m flying with some of the greatest pilots I’ve ever seen. You know what, if I do go down in some big ball of flame, I don’t know, it’s kinda copacetic. I’ve done about everything on my bucket list, even found Hannah.”

I laughed and brushed it off, said he was gonna be awesome as always.

But I hung up feeling worried about my kid bro. I knew he was giving all he had and that he cared immeasurably about not letting anyone down.

I read this comment at the bottom of a news article. It speaks to me.

“My brother is a commercial airline pilot (Jet Blue). Those flights are essentially 99% routine, slightly less predictable than that but nevertheless, it is safer than any other form of travel, statistically. Fighter pilots are not comparable to that really at all. Although their training is something that most people cannot imagine without going through it, they are test pilots on every flight. They do limit the unpredictable, but at those speeds, dynamics, environments, unknown variables that are trained for even without any warning when they occur, it's unbelievably dangerous...It's honestly a new reaction, and experience not-had-yet, every minute. It's danger level is basically infinity. My father was an aerospace engineer at GD for 35 years. F-16, F-111, Atlas. Those pilots have 4 years college before they fly a fighter (generally speaking). They're the best of the best. Razor sharp. Crashes aren't accidents. My dad would say "There's no such thing as problems; only unresolved details." I don't know what unresolved details were involved here, but I do know that pilot couldn't fly that craft another foot before ejecting. And likely the last thing he thought was "What can I do to keep everyone safe before myself?" Heroes defined.” 

I watch the sunset then, hours later, I watch the sunrise. Then I come out of my room and find my boys laying on the ground staring at a picture of their beloved uncle KAGE, their Eagle driving fighter pilot. Their little shoulders tremble as they weep.

Nope. There was absolutely, positively, no way my brother’s death was “routine.”

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Thanks for sharing these words. Too often we see losses of our brothers on here and except for the few that know them personally we don’t get to hear much about their lives or stories.

Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

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  • 2 months later...
On 9/15/2020 at 9:05 PM, SocialD said:


You'll have to swing by your squadron safety shop if you want to read the SIB report.

Is it the AIB that gets released to the unwashed masses?

Dude was from where I retired to, the Americans here honored his final return very well. 

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