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CAFB honors Memorial Day, pays tribute to late pilot from Class 09-10

CAFB honors Memorial Day, pays tribute to late pilot from Class 09-10

Shelly Becker hugs Gary Becker, her father-in-law after the Memorial Day Ceremony May 24, 2018, at Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi. Maj. Andrew Becker, a pilot and graduate of Class 09-10, died when his U-28A crashed near Clovis, New Mexico, in March 2017 during a training mission. His wife, father and mother visited Columbus AFB to attend a Memorial Day Ceremony and a special service in his honor where his name was unveiled on the memorial wall in the Richard “Gene” Smith Plaza . (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Keith Holcomb)

CAFB honors Memorial Day, pays tribute to late pilot from Class 09-10

Shelly Becker scratch etches the name of her late husband, Maj. Andrew Becker, after a Memorial Day Ceremony May 24, 2018, at Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi. Maj. Andrew Becker, a pilot and graduate of Class 09-10, died when his U-28A crashed near Clovis, New Mexico, in March 2017 during a training mission. His wife, father and mother visited Columbus AFB to attend a Memorial Day Ceremony and a special service in his honor where his name was unveiled on the memorial wall in the Richard “Gene” Smith Plaza . (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Keith Holcomb)

CAFB honors Memorial Day, pays tribute to late pilot from Class 09-10

The Columbus Air Force Base Honor Guard presents the colors May 24, 2018, at Columbus AFB, Mississippi. The Kaye Auditorium was filled with Team BLAZE members and special guests to honor Maj. Andrew Becker, a former student pilot here, who gave the ultimate sacrifice for his country. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Beaux Hebert)

CAFB honors Memorial Day, pays tribute to late pilot from Class 09-10

Col. Douglas Gosney, 14th Flying Training Wing commander, speaks to the family of Maj. Andrew Becker, during a Memorial Day Ceremony May 24, 2018, at Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi. During the ceremony Becker’s name was unveiled on the memorial wall in the Richard “Gene” Smith Plaza. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Beaux Hebert)

COLUMBUS AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. -- Members of the 14th Flying Training Wing along with family and friends of Maj. Andrew Becker gathered in the Kaye Auditorium here during a Memorial Day Ceremony and paid tribute to Becker during a special memorial service May 24.

Becker, along with two other Airmen, were killed when their U-28A crashed in March 2017 during a training sortie near Clovis, New Mexico.

“Our Air Force has a long history of brave Airmen,” said Col. Douglas Gosney, 14th Flying Training Wing commander. “Airmen like Maj. Andrew Becker. Andrew was and will always be a member of Team BLAZE. … We are here to remember those who were willing to put service before self in order to protect the many freedoms we enjoy, but behind every decorated grave of a fallen Airmen, Soldier, Sailor, Marine and Coast Guardsman, is a story of grief that came to a spouse, a mother, a father, a child, a family or a community.”

Becker, who graduated from pilot training at Columbus Air Force Base in 2009 with Class 09-10, had his name added to the memorial wall in the Richard “Gene” Smith Plaza. Since Columbus AFB became a pilot training base in 1971, 85 pilot training graduates and instructor pilots have died in the line of duty and their names have been added to the memorial wall in the plaza.

“Seeing his name on the wall is very somber,” said Shelly Becker, Andrew’s wife, “but I am so proud of him. It’s also a bit surreal standing in the same plaza we once took our photographs in when he pinned on his grandfather’s wings. It’s almost full circle in a way.”

During a very difficult time in her life, Shelly said the support she received allowed her and Andrew’s family to start Random Acts for Andy, in which they perform acts of kindness as a way to give back to their community and the nation with one kind gesture at a time.

“The Random Acts for Andy started as a way to give people an outlet,” Shelly said. “I thought the best way to honor him was to do something he would be happy and proud of and I just want to continue to make him proud every day. It was a way for people to do something small or something grand to pay it forward in the way they remembered him.”

Shelly said some of those acts have included people donating or volunteering at animal shelters. Others have taken a pay-it-forward approach and bought random people drinks.

“It was the big things, the little things that each time they sent me a message it lifted me,” she said. “It meant his spirit and generosity lives on thorough actions not only through remembrance and photos.”

According to those he served with and his family, Becker was an impressive leader, aviator and Airmen to all.

“He loved to teach, and he loved aviation,” Shelly said. “He not only wanted those around him to learn, he wanted them to be inspired and his attitude was contagious.”

During the ceremony, Gosney also stressed the importance of not forgetting and remembering the sacrifices those have made in defense of America.

“All are represented here today for Maj. Becker,” he said. “We must not forget those lost in service to our country or their families and we may never fully appreciate all the sacrifices made for us, but let us use today as a gift to honor those who gave their all so we may live free.”