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Team Hill, family remember fallen pilot

Capt. Benjamin Meier, left, and 1st Lt. Mike Pacini, both of the 421st Fighter Squadron, salute in remembrance of Capt. George Houghton, 421st FS, at a memorial service held at Hill AFB in his memory June 26.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Alex R. Lloyd)

Capt. Benjamin Meier, left, and 1st Lt. Mike Pacini, both of the 421st Fighter Squadron, salute in remembrance of Capt. George Houghton, 421st FS, at a memorial service held at Hill AFB in his memory June 26. (U.S. Air Force photo by Alex R. Lloyd)

The Hill Air Force Base Honor Guard stand beside the 421st Fighter Squadron F-16 Fighting Falcon in Hangar 37 before a memorial service June 26 for Capt. George Houghton.  Captain Houghton, 421st FS pilot, died during an F-16 accident at the Utah Test and Training Range June 22.

The Hill Air Force Base Honor Guard stand beside the 421st Fighter Squadron F-16 Fighting Falcon in Hangar 37 before a memorial service June 26 for Capt. George Houghton. Captain Houghton, 421st FS pilot, died during an F-16 accident at the Utah Test and Training Range June 22. (U.S. Air Force photo by Alex R. Lloyd)

The burial flag is held closely by a Hill AFB Honor Guard member prior to being presented to Capt. George Houghton's wife, Josie, at a memorial service held for the captain June 26.  Captain Houghton died when the F-16 he was flying crashed at the Utah Test and Training Range June 22.

The burial flag is held closely by a Hill AFB Honor Guard member prior to being presented to Capt. George Houghton's wife, Josie, at a memorial service held for the captain June 26. Captain Houghton died when the F-16 he was flying crashed at the Utah Test and Training Range June 22. (U.S. Air Force photo by Alex R. Lloyd)

HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah -- Members of Team Hill and the local community paid tribute to a fallen Airman, husband, son, brother, warrior and friend at a memorial service June 26 in Hangar 37.

Capt. George B. "Ice" Houghton, a pilot from the 421st Fighter Squadron, died during an F-16 accident June 22 at the Utah Test and Training Range. The Candler, N.C. native was 28.

The service included the presentation of the Meritorious Service Medal and U.S. flag and a Missing Man flyover.

His wife, Josie, father, George Houghton, mother, Darlene Houghton, and two brothers, Staff Sgt. Daniel Houghton and U.S. Air Force Academy cadet Patrick Houghton, as well as several out-of-town friends and family were in attendance.

"In this memorial service, we will -- in fighter pilot tradition -- both mourn his passing while we celebrate his life," said Col. Scott Dennis, 388th Fighter Wing commander at the time of the service, in what he described was the most sacred and solemn duty of honoring a fallen warrior.

"Josie, thank you for the honor of my speaking today and allowing me to honor George's service to our country," Colonel Dennis said. "George and Darlene, there are no words I can say that will ease your pain at the loss of your son, but I hope you will come to know how much George meant to us, and what a wonderful young man you raised."

"Like your other two sons, George made a commitment to serve this great country and because of that he has hundreds of brothers and sisters in this wing and beyond; in the end that is really why we all serve -- for each other."

Colonel Dennis shared this passage from John 15:13, "Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." He compared this to military service.

"That's what our service is about, that's what George was all about, that is why he was training for the upcoming combat deployment," Colonel Dennis said. "What we do is vitally important -- in Iraq and Afghanistan, we save lives of our comrades on the ground.

"This wing's actions in combat has saved countless lives, and prevented other families from losing their sons and daughters. Ice knew this, like we all do, and that's why he and the rest of us do what we do."

Colonel Dennis added that the wing's Airmen honor Captain Houghton by being committed to the same thing he was committed to ... "by continuing our professionalism -- by winning in combat - because it's vitally important to other families, and to our country."

Lt. Col. Tim Gosnell, 421st FS commander, said Captain Houghton had many sides to him including "jokester, DJ, professional, proud brother and talented pilot.

"On several occasions I got to fly with Ice the extremely talented, combat-ready Black Widow Viper driver, who couldn't hide his excitement about doing the job that he loved," Lieutenant Colonel Gosnell recalled.

"And through this last week, I got to meet Ice, the amazing family man who touched so many lives with his heart and strength," Lieutenant Colonel Gosnell said. "Even though he is not here now, I know he will be with all of us for our combat deployment and throughout the rest of our lives. Sawadee, Ice"

Captain Houghton's brothers and father also shared their memories of him calling, describing him as an "inspiration and hero."

His father noted the enlarged family Captain Houghton bestowed before his passing.

"When George married Josie, I gained a daughter. When he died, I gained a squadron, a wing, all of you," his father said as he pointed to the crowd. "You are all my family now."

Captain Houghton said his son wanted to be a fighter pilot, even though there was some danger involved. "His profession didn't take (him) away ... God did," his father concluded.

"As we all reflect today, let us remember that George Houghton was an American Patriot, who was willing to face the challenges that try our souls. He was someone during this time of war who did not shrink from service to our country. And he was willing to stand fast as a husband, son, brother and wingman when we needed him," Colonel Dennis said. "God rest his soul, and may God bless all of us today."