Earlier this week, my friend Jeff forwarded me an e-mail that’s made its way around the ‘Net a few times. I believe it started in 2004. I’ll let the text speak for itself:
Subject: Reply from Lt. Col. Scott Pleus
Luke AFB is west of Phoenix and is rapidly being surrounded by civilization that complains about the noise from the base and its planes, forgetting that it was there long before they were. A certain lieutenant colonel at Luke AFB deserves a big pat on the back. Apparently, an individual who lives somewhere near Luke AFB wrote the local paper complaining about a group of F-16s that disturbed his/her day at the mall. When that individual read the response from a Luke AFB officer, it must have stung quite a bit.
The complaint: "Question of the day for Luke Air Force Base: Whom do we thank for the morning air show? Last Wednesday, at precisely 9:11 a.m., a tight formation of four F-16 jets made a low pass over Arrowhead Mall, continuing west over Bell Road at approximately 500 feet. Imagine our good fortune! Do the Tom Cruise-wannabes feel we need this wake-up call, or were they trying to impress the cashiers at Mervyn’s early bird special? Any response would be appreciated."
The response: Regarding "A wake-up call from Luke’s jets" (Letters, Thursday): On June 15, at precisely 9:12 a.m., a perfectly timed four-ship flyby of F-16s from the 63rd Fighter Squadron at Luke Air Force Base flew over the grave of Capt. Jeremy Fresques. Capt. Fresques was an Air Force officer who was previously stationed at Luke Air Force Base and was killed in Iraq on May 30, Memorial Day. At 9 a.m. on June 15, his family and friends gathered at Sunland Memorial Park in Sun City to mourn the loss of a husband, son and friend. Based on the letter writer’s recount of the flyby, and because of the jet noise, I’m sure you didn’t hear the 21-gun salute, the playing of taps, or my words to the widow and parents of Capt. Fresques as I gave them their son’s flag on behalf of the President of the United States and all those veterans and servicemen and women who understand the sacrifices they have endured. A four-ship flyby is a display of respect the Air Force pays to those who give their lives in defense of freedom. We are professional aviators and take our jobs seriously, and on June 15 what the letter-writer witnessed was four officers lining up to pay their ultimate respects. The letter writer asks, "Whom do we thank for the morning air show? "The 56th Fighter Wing will call for you, and forward your thanks to the widow and parents of Capt. Fresques, and thank them for you, for it was in their honor that my pilots flew the most honorable formation of their lives. Lt. Col. Scott Pleus Commander, 63rd Fighter Squadron, Luke AFB
Jeff was curious if I’d seen it. I explained everything I knew in a separate e-mail.
Not only did I recieve this back in 2005 [It may have been 2004, now that I think of it – ed], I hopped on the global and sent a short message to the effect ‘Well said, sir!’ to Lt Col “Rolls” Pleus. He sent me an even shorter reply (‘Thanks!’).
It turns out that Lt Col Pleus got so many replies that it crashed Luke AFB’s server. The comm folks had to establish a separate account for him on a different server to handle the traffic. Someone from the 63 FS told me he got well over a thousand e-mails (almost all positive). He took a month or so, but he replied to every single e-mail he got.
What wasn’t said was that he initially wrote a pretty angry response, but tore that up and threw it away, and then went for the classier construct shown. It was vetted through the 56 OG/CC (my old boss from the 22 FS, Col Strawther), 56 FW/PA, and through the Wing King, then BGen Rand (a freakin’ great guy himself–he was the 8 FW/CC over at Kunsan when I was there). Some of my favorite folks had a hand in making it all happen.
I had the privilege of going through the F-16 requal course when Lt Col Pleus was still in charge. I thanked him in person for getting back to me. He left the 63d to go to Texas to work on either 19 AF or AETC staff, I forgot which.
And now all of you know everything I know about that!