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97 AMW honors fallen WWII Airman with KC-46 flyover

U.S. Air Force aircrew of the KC-46 Pegasus flyover team for the funeral of U.S. Army Air Forces Lt. Earnest Vienneau, 97th Bombardment Group (BW), stands next to their aircraft at Pease Air National Guard Base, New Hampshire, Oct. 8, 2021. Over time, the 97th BW  became the 97th Air Mobility Wing that these Airmen are members of. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Cody Dowell)

U.S. Air Force aircrew of the KC-46 Pegasus flyover team for the funeral of U.S. Army Air Forces Lt. Earnest Vienneau, 97th Bombardment Group (BW), stands next to their aircraft at Pease Air National Guard Base, New Hampshire, Oct. 8, 2021. Over time, the 97th BW became the 97th Air Mobility Wing that these Airmen are members of. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Cody Dowell)

An Air Force aircrew badge lies broken on the casket of U.S. Army Air Forces 2nd Lt. Earnest Vienneau, 97th Bombardment Group, during the funeral at Millinocket, Maine, Oct. 9, 2021. As a tradition, initial pilot graduates to bring good luck, break their wing into two parts. To preserve good luck, the halves should never be brought together while the pilot is alive and after their passing they are brought together for good luck in the next life. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Cody Dowell)

An Air Force aircrew badge lies broken on the casket of U.S. Army Air Forces 2nd Lt. Earnest Vienneau, 97th Bombardment Group, during the funeral at Millinocket, Maine, Oct. 9, 2021. As a tradition, initial pilot graduates to bring good luck, break their wing into two parts. To preserve good luck, the halves should never be brought together while the pilot is alive and after their passing they are brought together for good luck in the next life. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Cody Dowell)

Chelsea Carbonell, great niece of U.S. Army Air Forces 2nd Lt. Earnest Vienneau, 97th Bombardment Group, looks at a letter and coin from the commander of the 97th Air Mobility Wing during the funeral at Millinocket, Maine, Oct. 9, 2021. These tokens of appreciation were on behalf of the current wing commander, U.S. Air Force Col. Blaine Baker, since the installation's heritage dates back to Vienneau’s unit in WWII. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Cody Dowell)

Chelsea Carbonell, great niece of U.S. Army Air Forces 2nd Lt. Earnest Vienneau, 97th Bombardment Group, looks at a letter and coin from the commander of the 97th Air Mobility Wing during the funeral at Millinocket, Maine, Oct. 9, 2021. These tokens of appreciation were on behalf of the current wing commander, U.S. Air Force Col. Blaine Baker, since the installation's heritage dates back to Vienneau’s unit in WWII. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Cody Dowell)

U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Brad Edwards, 58th Airlift Squadron loadmaster, presents a plaque from the 97th Air Mobility Wing (AMW) to the family of U.S. Army Air Forces 2nd Lt. Earnest Vienneau, 97th Bombardment Group, during Vienneau’s funeral at Millinocket, Maine, Oct. 9, 2021. The plaque showcased the aircraft that Vienneau flew and the aircraft that was flown over the funeral by members of the 97th AMW. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Cody Dowell)

U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Brad Edwards, 58th Airlift Squadron loadmaster, presents a plaque from the 97th Air Mobility Wing (AMW) to the family of U.S. Army Air Forces 2nd Lt. Earnest Vienneau, 97th Bombardment Group, during Vienneau’s funeral at Millinocket, Maine, Oct. 9, 2021. The plaque showcased the aircraft that Vienneau flew and the aircraft that was flown over the funeral by members of the 97th AMW. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Cody Dowell)

Kelly McKeague, Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) director, presents a plaque from his agency to the family of U.S. Army Air Forces 2nd Lt. Earnest Vienneau, 97th Bombardment Group, during Vienneau’s funeral at Millinocket, Maine, Oct. 9, 2021. The DPAA vision is to provide a world-class workforce that fulfills the nation’s obligation by maximizing the number of missing personnel accounted for while ensuring timely, accurate information is provided to their families. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Cody Dowell)

Kelly McKeague, Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) director, presents a plaque from his agency to the family of U.S. Army Air Forces 2nd Lt. Earnest Vienneau, 97th Bombardment Group, during Vienneau’s funeral at Millinocket, Maine, Oct. 9, 2021. The DPAA vision is to provide a world-class workforce that fulfills the nation’s obligation by maximizing the number of missing personnel accounted for while ensuring timely, accurate information is provided to their families. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Cody Dowell)

The family of U.S. Army Air Forces 2nd Lt. Earnest Vienneau, 97th Bombardment Group (BG), watch as a KC-46 Pegasus from the 97th Air Mobility Wing (AMW) approaches in the distance at Millinocket, Maine, Oct. 9, 2021. The 97th BG at the time of Vienneau’s service was in Amendola, Italy, and has since changed its name and location to the 97th AMW in Altus, Oklahoma. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Cody Dowell)

The family of U.S. Army Air Forces 2nd Lt. Earnest Vienneau, 97th Bombardment Group (BG), watch as a KC-46 Pegasus from the 97th Air Mobility Wing (AMW) approaches in the distance at Millinocket, Maine, Oct. 9, 2021. The 97th BG at the time of Vienneau’s service was in Amendola, Italy, and has since changed its name and location to the 97th AMW in Altus, Oklahoma. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Cody Dowell)

U.S. Army Maj. Jeff Whitten, Maine Army National Guard state partnership program director, salutes the flag after presenting the flag to the family of U.S. Army Air Forces 2nd Lt. Earnest Vienneau, 97th Bombardment Group, as a KC-46 Pegasus from the 97th Air Mobility Wing approaches in the distance at Millinocket, Maine, Oct. 9, 2021. After the folding, presenting, passing, lowering, or raising of the American Flag, U.S. military members salute the flag as a form of honor and respect. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Cody Dowell)

U.S. Army Maj. Jeff Whitten, Maine Army National Guard state partnership program director, salutes the flag after presenting the flag to the family of U.S. Army Air Forces 2nd Lt. Earnest Vienneau, 97th Bombardment Group, as a KC-46 Pegasus from the 97th Air Mobility Wing approaches in the distance at Millinocket, Maine, Oct. 9, 2021. After the folding, presenting, passing, lowering, or raising of the American Flag, U.S. military members salute the flag as a form of honor and respect. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Cody Dowell)

U.S. Army Maj. Jeff Whitten, Maine Army National Guard state partnership program director, salutes the flag after presenting the flag to the family of U.S. Army Air Forces 2nd Lt. Earnest Vienneau, 97th Bombardment Group, as a KC-46 Pegasus from the 97th Air Mobility Wing approaches in the distance at Millinocket, Maine, Oct. 9, 2021. After the folding, presenting, passing, lowering, or raising of the American Flag, U.S. military members salute the flag as a form of honor and respect. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Cody Dowell)

Members of the U.S. Army Honor Guard team from Fort Drum, New York, fold the American Flag for the funeral of U.S. Army Air Forces 2nd Lt. Earnest Vienneau, 97th Bombardment Group, at Millinocket, Maine, Oct. 9, 2021. The ceremonial procedure to properly fold an American flag is to fold it 13 times in a specific manner,with each fold having its own specific meaning. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Cody Dowell)

Members of the U.S. Army Honor Guard team from Fort Drum, New York, fold the American Flag for the funeral of U.S. Army Air Forces 2nd Lt. Earnest Vienneau, 97th Bombardment Group, at Millinocket, Maine, Oct. 9, 2021. The ceremonial procedure to properly fold an American flag is to fold it 13 times in a specific manner,with each fold having its own specific meaning. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Cody Dowell)

Members of the U.S. Army Honor Guard team from Fort Drum, New York, perform Taps for the funeral of U.S. Army Air Forces 2nd Lt. Earnest Vienneau, 97th Bombardment Group, at Millinocket, Maine, Oct. 9, 2021. Taps is a bugle melody played at military funerals and memorials as well as a lights-out signal to service members at night, which dates back to the American Civil War. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Cody Dowell)

Members of the U.S. Army Honor Guard team from Fort Drum, New York, perform Taps for the funeral of U.S. Army Air Forces 2nd Lt. Earnest Vienneau, 97th Bombardment Group, at Millinocket, Maine, Oct. 9, 2021. Taps is a bugle melody played at military funerals and memorials as well as a lights-out signal to service members at night, which dates back to the American Civil War. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Cody Dowell)
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Members of the U.S. Army Honor Guard team from Fort Drum, New York, carry the casket of U.S. Army Air Forces 2nd Lt. Earnest Vienneau, 97th Bombardment Group, at Millinocket, Maine, Oct. 9, 2021. Military Honor Guard teams render professional military funeral honors, in accordance with service tradition, to all eligible veterans when requested by an authorized family member. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Cody Dowell)

Motorcyclists from the Patriot Riders escort the funeral procession team for the funeral of U.S. Army Air Forces 2nd Lt. Earnest Vienneau, 97th Bombardment Group, at Millinocket, Maine, Oct. 9, 2021. Groups like this form a voluntary honor guard at military burials, to help protect mourners from harassment and fill out the ranks at burials. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Cody Dowell)
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Motorcyclists from the Patriot Riders escort the funeral procession team for the funeral of U.S. Army Air Forces 2nd Lt. Earnest Vienneau, 97th Bombardment Group, at Millinocket, Maine, Oct. 9, 2021. Groups like this form a voluntary honor guard at military burials, to help protect mourners from harassment and fill out the ranks at burials. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Cody Dowell)

A flag is hung in the back of a KC-46 Pegasus, at Altus Air Force Base, Oklahoma, Oct. 8, 2021. This flag was flown inside the aircraft for the funeral of U.S. Army Air Forces 2nd Lt. Earnest Vienneau, 97th Bombardment Group, to be later given to the family after the flyover. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Cody Dowell)
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A flag is hung in the back of a KC-46 Pegasus, at Altus Air Force Base, Oklahoma, Oct. 8, 2021. This flag was flown inside the aircraft for the funeral of U.S. Army Air Forces 2nd Lt. Earnest Vienneau, 97th Bombardment Group, to be later given to the family after the flyover. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Cody Dowell)

ALTUS AIR FORCE BASE, Okla.-- The history of The 97th Air Mobility Wing’s “Triangle Y” symbol dates back to when the 97th Bombardment Group flew missions out of Italy during WWII. That legacy resurfaced when one of the pilots who flew one of those “Triangle Y” aircraft remains were found and was finally laid to rest in Millinocket, Maine, on Oct. 9, 2021, after being lost at sea for more than 75 years.

To honor the legacy of the Mighty 97th and the acts of U.S. Army Air Forces 2nd Lt. Earnest Vienneau, 340th Bombardment Squadron, B-17 Flying Fortress co-pilot, members of the 97th AMW performed a flyover in a KC-46 Pegasus during the funeral. 

“I think (finding his remains) is bigger than just my family. I think it’s bigger than just Millinocket and I think it is bigger than me,” said Chelsea Carbonell, great niece of Vienneau and next of kin. “I feel like right now, with everything that’s been going on in our country, this is a hopeful occurrence to remind Americans of hope and who we really are. So, I think this (ceremony) belongs to everyone.”

At the time of his passing in 1944, Vienneau was assigned to the 97th Bombardment Group in Amendola, Italy. That unit has since transferred and is known today as the 97th Air Mobility Wing, located at Altus Air Force Base. Since then, the wing has switched its mission of tactical aerial support to extending global mobility reach.  Mighty 97th members of the 56th Air Refueling Squadron flew a KC-46 Pegasus over the Millinocket Cemetery. The aircrew performed a flyover for the funeral of Vienneau to honor the sacrifice he gave to the unit, his family, and country.

“It is pretty amazing to be a part of this team to honor the legacy of Lt. Vienneau,” said Maj. Steve Pike, 56th ARS KC-46 pilot. “Being from Maine myself, it is truly humbling to be a part of this ceremony and I am so glad we could pay respect to his family. The entire maintenance and aircrew team took this mission very seriously and we are so happy to see Lt. Vienneau get the respect that he has paid the ultimate sacrifice for.”

A majority of Vienneau’s family was able to properly say goodbye at his funeral, having members of the Patriot Riders escort the funeral procession, Soldiers of the Army Honor Guard team from Fort Drum, New York, present proper military honors, and the 97th Air Mobility Wing performing a flyover. In Carbonell’s opinion, this was the proper way to remember their family member’s service.

“So Bob (nephew of Vienneau and former next of kin), who just passed away, was the one who asked for the flyover and he just wanted to do it right,” said Carbonell. “He had a strong feeling that all of his other siblings got to live full lives. They married, they had children, they had careers and Earnest didn’t get to do any of those things. He wanted to honor him and remember him for what he did and doing the full military funeral and the flyover. I feel like it is just so right and it is such an amazing sendoff to him.”

According to Carbonell, her uncle had eight brothers who also served in the military and six of them served during WWII, all of which volunteered to enter the armed services. She added that it makes their family grateful that many members of their family served and get to continue to pay their respects.

“We are very honored and proud that he, his brothers and even his sisters served ,” Carbonell added. “When looking back at pictures of Ernest when he was so young, he had his whole life ahead of him and he was willing to go and serve. We are just so proud of him and we should continue to honor veterans and their families more.”

Since WWII, the aircraft Vienneau flew, the B-17, as well as the C-47 Skytrain, C-45 Expediter, B-47 Stratojet, KC-97 Stratofreighter, and the B-52 Stratofortress have been retired from the Air Force and installation. 

Today, the 97th AMW proudly flies the KC-135 Stratotanker, C-17 Globemaster III and KC-46 to train future pilots, loadmasters, and in-flight refuelers of these aircraft to extend airpower in efforts both foreign or domestic.

“Air refueling has become a key pillar to air mobility and provides to America’s strategic advantage,” said Pike. “Lt. Vienneau’s sacrifice contributes to our long legacy of adaptability and innovation that allows America to have a relevant and lethal force.”

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