F-16 pilot remembered as a hero
Capt. Will DuBois was not afraid to try anything.
The F-16 pilot, who went by the call sign "Pyro," was an athlete, equestrian and scuba diver, his family said.
"He was the best man I ever knew," DuBois' father William DuBois Sr. said. "He had a short life that was so well-lived. He lived life to the fullest. He was so much more."
DuBois, 30, was killed Nov. 30 when his F-16 crashed shortly after takeoff as he was headed out on a mission in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, the military's battle against Islamic State fighters in Iraq and Syria.
"He lost his life being a hero," DuBois said.
"I loved him with all my heart and soul and I'm lucky to call him my husband," his wife Ashley DuBois said in a statement released by the family. "And I close my eyes and hear him laughing and see him smile and I'm forever grateful for all the love and joy that he brought to my life. Push it up and double down my love."
DuBois's unit had deployed to the region in October to join the fight against the Islamic State group, and flew out of an unnamed base. DuBois encountered a problem after takeoff and attempted to return to base when he crashed at about 11 p.m.
The Defense Department is not naming the location of the crash due to "host nation sensitivities," according to a release.
DuBois was assigned to the 77th Fighter Squadron at Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina. In a video statement, Col. Stephen Jost, the commander of the 20th Fighter Wing at Shaw, said losing DuBois is "sad and tragic."
"Our most sincere condolences are with his family, his friends and squadron members during this difficult time," Jost said. "Capt. DuBois was a patriot, who was willing to put his life on the line every day in service to his nation. He was a valued airman, pilot and friend of those he touched here at Shaw Air Force Base. He will be greatly missed."
The crash is the second fatal F-16 mishap in two years for the 77th Fighter Squadron. On April 2, 2013, Capt. James Steel was killed when his jet crashed into a mountain near Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan following a close air-support mission.
DuBois grew up in the small town of New Castle, Colorado, and graduated from the University of Colorado at Boulder, where he was a member of the school's Reserve Officer Training Corps. Daniel Kulp, a friend of DuBois, posted on the Air Force ROTC Detachment 105 Alumni Chapter Facebook page that "we all owe him a debt of gratitude."
"He was a great leader, cared deeply about his friends and family and was just the nicest darn guy I ever met," Kulp wrote. "He was generous, kind, and at the same time had the heart of a true warrior. He was larger than life, but didn't have the ego to realize it, only confidence that comes from being good at your job due to hard work and dedication."
DuBois' sister Devon said her brother "is the most amazing, loving, caring person I have ever known."
"He would give the shirt off his back to anyone in need," she said in the statement from the family. "I miss him terribly [everyday] and will give every day for the rest of my life. He died doing what he loved and I hope one day that will help give us some peace."
His mother Donna DuBois said her son was "anything but generic."
"What can you say about the most wonderful person to walk the planet?" she said. "Family held the highest priority in his life. He made everyone around him better. I was a better person having him as my son."
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