Fallen Warrior: Maj. Lucas “Gaza” Gruenther

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  • 81st Training Wing Public Affairs

For our Fallen Warrior commemoration this week, we honor U.S. Air Force Maj. Lucas “Gaza” Gruenther, 31st Fighter Wing flight safety chief and F-16 Fighting Falcon pilot at Aviano Air Base, Italy.

Gruenther was born in Twain Harte, California, on Dec. 29, 1980 and grew up in a military family. In 2003, Gruenther earned his commission from the Air Force Academy where he was a distinguished graduate and a member of the Wings of Blue Air Force Parachute Demonstration Team.

On Jan. 28, 2013, while taking part in a night training mission over the Adriatic Sea off the coast of Italy, Gruenther’s F-16 Fighting Falcon went missing. The Italian Coast Guard led a massive search to find the missing pilot. Authorities recovered debris from the missing aircraft, including Gruenther’s helmet which was reported in good condition along with his parachute. With optimisms high it wasn’t until the afternoon of the third day, where they recovered his body.

Gruenther is survived by his wife and his daughter, born just a week after his death.

Editor's note: The Fallen Warrior series highlights Fallen Warriors who exemplify our core values and paid the ultimate sacrifice. Take a moment to honor this week’s hero.