(U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo.) — The United States Air Force Academy (USAFA) held a memorial dedication on Friday, May 5 to honor a graduate of the Academy and his special operations aircrew who were killed in action during Operation DESERT STORM in 1991.
A sculpture was dedicated on Friday as a gift from the Class of 1979 to the Cadet Wing, which honors the AC-130H Spectre Gunship aircrew. According to USAFA, on Jan. 31, 1991, the gunship was being piloted by 1979 Academy graduate Major Paul Weaver under the call sign Spirit 03.
USAFA said Maj. Weaver and the crew of Spirit 03 were engaged in combat operations to protect U.S. forces during the Battle of Khafji when the gunship was downed by an enemy missile, killing all 14 members of the aircrew. At the time, the gunship was assigned to the 1st Special Operations Wing, 16th Special Operations Squadron at Hurlburt Field, Florida.
USAFA said the sculpture memorializing Weaver and his aircrew has been permanently installed on the Academy Honor Court, which is publicly accessible between Arnold Hall and the Cadet Chapel.
Maj. Weaver’s sisters, who were in attendance at the dedication, said this hits close to home, since their brother would show them around the Academy and then stop in the very spot the sculpture now stands.
“When I used to come to the Academy, he’d actually walk me over here and we would actually look at the different monuments and stuff to the different groups, and he would tell me about them,” said Maj. Weaver’s sister, Jennifer Lavery. “So I feel that this is extremely… an honor that I can’t even put words to.”
“To think of them getting up in the middle of the night and going out and flying that plane is difficult even to imagine they can do that. And to, without hesitation, actually put yourself in harm’s way. It’s not something most of us think about,” said Karen Roberts, another of Maj. Weaver’s sisters.
At the ceremony on Friday, an AC-130J Ghostrider gunship from the 16th Special Operations Squadron performed a flyover in salute to the Spirit 03 aircrew.
The names of Maj. Weaver’s crew are engraved on the sculpture, forever memorializing their bravery and service to the United States:
- Capt. Cliff Bland
- Capt. Arthur Galvan
- Capt. William Grimm
- Capt. Dixon Walters
- Senior Master Sgt. Paul Buege
- Senior Master Sgt. James May
- Tech. Sgt. Robert Hodges
- Tech. Sgt. John Oelschlager
- Staff Sgt. John Blessinger
- Staff Sgt. Timothy Harrison
- Staff Sgt. Damon Kanuha
- Staff Sgt. Mark Schmauss
- Sergeant Barry Clark