One year ago today, we lost a pilot and a hero. Capt Nick “Rev” Giglio was killed in a training accident when his F-16 collided with another. The 77th Fighter Squadron out of Shaw AFB in South Carolina was ramping up to be deployed when the mishap occurred.
My sister’s husband, a fellow F-16 pilot, was in the tower as the ATC liaison that night – SOF or “supervisor of flight” in military parlance. I remember her calling me, telling me something was wrong. Her husband had sent her a terse text message, saying he would be home late. Subsequent texts didn’t provide any details to the evolving situation, but from the tone she knew it was bad.
For the next several days, search and rescue teams scoured the Atlantic off the coast, but came up empty. This is part of what my sister wrote publicly a few days later:
Thursday night while talking to my dad on the phone, I got a text from my husband, Eric, saying he would be late coming home from work. I would not normally think much of this except that on Thursday night he was sitting in the tower on base sitting SOF (Supervisor of Flying) and usually that job didn’t require you to stay late. He was supposed to be home around 10 and I got the text about 930. So I waited an hour or so and replied asking if he had an update on the time he’d be home. He said he’d be late and that he’d update me when he could. I knew there wasn’t much weather around and something still wasn’t sitting well with me. I texted him back and said “Is everyone or everything okay?” All I got back was “I can’t answer that right now”. My heart began to race and by the time he got home at 230 am (I waited up b/c what else was I going to do) it had been on the news that 2 F-16s (both pilots from the squadron my husband is in here in SC) had collided during a training mission not far off the coast of South Carolina. One pilot had landed his jet back in Charleston and the other, Captain Giglio was missing. I have never felt emotions that I felt that night, but I found myself saying to other pilots wives the next day, we have to believe in miracles, just look at what God did for my dad. This all began Thursday night around 830 and by Saturday night, they called off the rescue and said the chances of Capt Giglio having been able to eject from the jet was slim to none. Fox News carried the story.
Due to everything going on with my dad’s lung transplant in the past month or so, I had not gotten a chance to meet Capt Giglio’s wife as they had only been here for a few months. Captain Giglio left behind a 14 month old daughter Grace and his high school sweetheart (graduated in 1995) turned wife in 2000 expecting their second child in February. The wives in our squadron have done our best to support his wife, Leigh and one of those ways is having a 77th Fighter Squadron wife at her house with her and her family. My shift was this morning. I had never met Leigh formally. She joined MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) 2 weeks ago and I was involved with it last year. At the beginning of the year, something had to give for my family and that was what I had to give up, but my fellows MOPS gals promised to pray for my dad and keep him on their prayer list even though I wasn’t there.
This morning as I drove to the house leaving my husband at home, I had many different emotions. I had just been able to kiss my husband goodbye and what in the world could I say to this wife who had just lost her husband? I was scared that I would say the wrong thing and she would just break down. I’m a social person, but it was an extremely uncomfortable position for me to be in. I walked to the door and knocked quietly not knowing if Grace was sleeping. Leigh opened the door, I introduced myself saying, “Hi, I’m Christy Music, we are in the 77th, my husband is Eric” (or something like that, it was somewhat of a blur). But before I had stepped foot past the front door and after saying who I was, the first thing out of her mouth was not “good morning” or “hi, nice to meet you”, it was immediately “Oh, Christy, how is your dad?” WHAT?
Even as I write that and remember the words coming out of her mouth I get chills and it brings tears to my eyes. Someone who 3 days earlier had lost her husband and had only been told 36 hours prior that they were ending the search and rescue that it would now be in recovery mode was asking me how my dad was? Someone who had yet to meet me. Someone who has a 14 month old and a baby boy growing in her belly that won’t even get to know his father was asking me how my dad was. I was blown away and stood there for a few seconds not able to say a word but finally was able to get out the words “He’s doing great, thank you for asking”. We talked for a few more minutes about my dad with Leigh letting me know she and Nick had been praying for and she will continue to pray for my dad before moving into the kitchen where we began the rest of the day. Let’s not talk about how I felt when I cooked eggs for her and asked her if she wanted me to put milk in them so they would be fluffy. She came over and put her arm around me and said, oh thank you, Nick always used to ask if I wanted my eggs fluffy. You can DEFINITELY see a woman very sure of her faith and she knows where her husband went. It was amazing to spend the morning with her even though she was in and out trying to get dressed to go shopping for clothes for the memorial service and on the phone with various offices. I couldn’t let go of her first statement to me and couldn’t wait to be able to call my dad and share the news with him.
All this after calling him over the weekend after the F-16 accident to share with him that another one of our friends in the F-16 community that were stationed with us in UT, they are now in Italy, lost his wife just hours after she gave birth to their second baby boy. I’m trying to make a deal with God where he doesn’t give me any more bad news b/c while everything with my dad has been a complete blessing and miracle, I’m kinda spent. Within 2 weeks I think I’ve experienced just about every emotion humanly possible, but I know that someone always has it worse than me.
I am so blessed to have a husband that played an important role in the way things played out after the collision occurred and still walked in the door that night. I am blessed with so many things but I am blessed to know that I know a God who watches out for each and every one of us no matter where we are. He puts certain people in our lives and has them say certain things to know he’s there with us at all times. That’s what I feel he was doing with Leigh. We still have a long week ahead knowing there is a service for a young mother in Italy on Wednesday and the memorial service here Thursday for Captain Giglio but God is in control of all of it just as he was with my dad’s transplant. Please just pray for these families as you continue to pray for my dad. They both have long roads ahead of them.
Capt Giglio and his aircraft were never found. He was presumed to have perished in the initial impact. Buried in Arlington National Cemetery, the lost aviator leaves behind a wife and two young children. Not just another nameless family that made the ultimate sacrifice, this one is personal and close to home.
If you would like to help the families of fallen heroes, please consider the Air Warrior Courage Foundation.
Lord, guard and guide the men who fly
Through the great spaces of the sky;
Be with them traversing the air
In darkening storms or sunshine fair
Thou who dost keep with tender might
The balanced birds in all their flight
Thou of the tempered winds be near
That, having thee, they know no fear