I didn’t know Captain Will Dubois, but based on what I’ve witnessed the last few days, I sure wish I had known him.
Dubois died on December 1st, 2014 when his F-16 crashed shortly after takeoff from a base in the Middle East on a mission supporting Operation Inherent Resolve. On the anniversary of his loss, a legion of friends, family, and other admirers shared memories and recalled a short life lived to the absolute fullest.
Turns out Pyro wasn’t just a run-of-the-mill Viper pilot, if there is such a thing. He was a man — true to his nickname — setting the world on fire. He had that spark … that innate quality and presence that drew people into orbit. In all aspects of his life, he operated with the throttles full forward, exhibiting an irresistible zeal, charisma, and a trademark lightheartedness that made him incredibly popular everywhere he went. This was the kind of guy who worked hard and played hard — a perfect fit for the fighter pilot community. Will was a notorious prankster with many victims, but also an ardent and loyal wingman who took care of his teammates.
He was also a certified badass pilot who had made a name for himself in his first 700 flying hours and was next on the 77th Fighter Squadron’s list to be pushed to the USAF Weapons School. He’d flown 17 missions in the fight against ISIS before his fateful last mission, reliably putting steel on target in a manner consistent with the best traditions of America’s Air Force. His buddies commemorated his loss by sending ISIS a special note on his behalf. Reportedly, the weapon pictured below did not return with the aircraft.
Now, those he inspired continue working to live up to his example, hoping he’ll flash them a smile from wherever he is. As they’ve glanced back at his memory this week, much has been said about this officer, leader, husband, friend, and fighter pilot. I think this particular sentiment, rendered by his close friend Ben Derry, recalls him with particular salience:
“Will coined the phrase ‘moderation is for cowards.’ He was the real life Bill Brasky. Everyone who knew him has a story that lands just on the outside of plausible, but every single one is true.”
The man made a hell of a mark. Through his wife Ashley, he continues to make that mark. She adapted his signature phrase as the core design for t-shirts sold by the Pyro’s Wings foundation, which uses proceeds to help high school kids interested in aviation learn how to fly. There’s that spark again … working to light the same spark in others.
You can buy a shirt and donate to foundation here: https://www.bonfirefunds.com/pyros-wings
When we’re at our best, as Capt. Will Dubois was every day of his amazing life, we allow that which might sadden us to instead uplift and inspire us. In that spirit, I invite you to watch the video below, created by filmmaker Larry Cappetto to honor Will’s final journey home. You’ll be glad you did, and it’s a fitting way to honor the legacy of a truly inspirational warrior who is gone too soon but will clearly never be forgotten.
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