By Lynn R. Mitchell
After releasing the sad news Thursday night that the Massachusetts Air National Guard pilot died on impact when he crashed in the mountains of the George Washington National Forest in western Augusta County (see F-15 pilot killed in Augusta County, Va, crash), the 104th Fighter Wing released his identity on Friday:
Following the fatal crash of a 104th Fighter Wing F-15C aircraft in the remote mountains near Deerfield Valley, Va. the family has asked that the unit share with the public the name of the pilot who was fatally injured Wednesday.
“On behalf of the family of our fallen pilot and with a sense of profound sadness, I am sad to share that Lt. Col. Morris ‘Moose’ Fontenot Jr., was killed tragically in Wednesday’s F-15 crash,” said Col. James Keefe, 104th Fighter Wing Commander. “We all continue to keep the Fontenot family in our thoughts and prayers during this very difficult time,” added Keefe.
Lt. Col. Morris Fontenot Jr. served with the 104th Fighter Wing as the full-time Wing Inspector General, responsible for the implementation of the Air Force Inspection System and as an F-15 instructor pilot with more than 2,300 flight hours. A 1996 Air Force Academy Graduate, Lt. Col. Fontenot was additionally a Weapons School Graduate with more than 17 years of F-15 flying experience. He served as a squadron commander at multiple locations. Following Active Duty assignments in Washington D.C., Japan, Idaho, Florida, Alaska and numerous deployments to the Middle East, Lt. Col. Fontenot joined the Massachusetts Air National Guard in February 2014. He was a decorated combat veteran, earning the Meritorious Service Medal, Air Medal, Aerial Achievement Medal, Air Force Commendation Medal, Air Force Achievement Medal, and Combat Readiness Medal among others.
The investigation into the crash is ongoing.
Leigh Armentrout, an Augusta County resident whose husband is military and who lives in the crash vicinity, perhaps wrote best what many in the area were thinking:
My heart aches this morning. For a man I’ve never met. For his family. For all the search crews. I saw first hand how hard everyone tried. You’re going home soldier. God bless you.
Later, after learning the identity of the pilot, she added:
Rest in peace sir, your job is done. Thank you for your service. You will live on in the hearts of many.
Lt. Col. Fontenot was a 1996 graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy where he will be remembered by the Academy and its cadets on September 27 (see F-15 crash: Lt. Col. Morris Fontonet to be remembered at Air Force Academy):
“Each year before our homecoming game, the Air Force Academy’s current cadets assemble for a roll call, and the Cadet Wing’s leader will read off the names of the members of the Long Blue Line who have passed over the last year, and the last cadet squadron that graduate was assigned to. This year, we will be reading Lt. Col. Morris Fontenot, Jr., who graduated as a member of Cadet Squadron 33. When his name is read, the current commander of Cadet Squadron 33 will reply, ‘absent sir’ to remember and honor the loss. It never gets any easier hearing those names, even though we know in the profession of arms and in life itself that we will lose good people that we have ties to.”
Lt. Col. Fontenot lived in Longmeadow, Massachusetts, with his wife. Our prayers go to his family with gratitude for his service to America.
Photo provided with press release
Also from LynnRMitchell.com:
– Day 3: Air National Guard pilot killed in Virginia crash identified
– F-15 pilot killed in Augusta County, Va, crash
– Search for pilot moves closer to Staunton
– Day 2: Search continues for downed Air National Guard pilot in Augusta County
– Breaking news: State of emergency called by Augusta County in search for missing Air Guard pilot
– Military fighter jet crashes in mountains of western Augusta County — UPDATED
– Gratitude expressed by Mass. Air National Guard for efforts searching for downed pilot