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Laughlin honors Graziano with memorial service

The 87th Flying Training Squadron honors Capt. John Graziano, 87th FTS instructor pilot through a T-38C Talon missing-man formation flyover while the base honor guard presented colors, ending his memorial service on Nov. 21, 2018, at Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas. Members of the base, community, and U.S. Congressman Will Hurd gathered to pay their respects to an aviator who lost his life doing what he loved. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Benjamin Valmoja)

Family, friends, the 87th Flying Training Squadron and Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas, display awards and photos of Capt. John Graziano, 87th FTS instructor pilot, at his memorial service on Nov. 21, 2018. The “FAIP Mafia” flag shows the respect and camaraderie first assignment instructor pilots have for Graziano. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Marco A. Gomez)

Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas’ Honor Guard presents the colors at the base’s memorial service for Capt. John Graziano, 87th Flying Training Squadron instructor pilot, on Nov. 21, 2018. Family, friends and fellow Airmen said Graziano poured hours into training new pilots, and he worked tirelessly to make himself a better aviator and instructor. He volunteered in his church, in his community and around the base, but for all the things John was, he would want to be remembered as an aviator, said Col. Lee Gentile, 47th Flying Training Wing commander. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Benjamin Valmoja)

Family, friends, the 87th Flying Training Squadron and Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas, display awards and photos of Capt. John Graziano, 87th FTS instructor pilot, at his memorial service on Nov. 21, 2018. Col. Lee Gentile, 47th Flying Training Wing commander, said the day wasn’t intended to dwell on his loss, but to celebrate his life and how he touched the lives of others he knew. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Benjamin Valmoja)

LAUGHLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Texas— Family, friends, U.S. Congressman Will Hurd, and the Airmen of Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas, gathered to remember the life of Capt. John Graziano, an instructor pilot for the 87th Flying Training Squadron, during his memorial Nov. 21, 2018.

Maj. Gen. Patrick Doherty, 19th Air Force commander, Col. Lee Gentile, 47th Flying Training Wing commander, and Graziano’s parents, Dr. Glenda Snavely and Dr. Thomas Graziano all spoke at the memorial, urging family and friends to remember his life instead of dwelling on his death.

The Laughlin base honor guard presented the colors for the singing of the national anthem, and again at the end of the ceremony during Taps while the 87th FTS flew a missing-man formation over those in attendance, ending the memorial service.

“I didn’t know John personally,” Doherty said. “When I saw pictures of John, I remembered meeting him in a short, by-chance interaction last year. It was a natural, unplanned moment—the kind I like the best. I remember just being impressed with his confidence, personal demeanor and how he possessed a true purpose about who he was and what he was doing with his life.”

According to Gentile, those who had the pleasure of knowing Graziano said he had a radiant personality, and he touched the lives of those around him.

“He showed up to work every with a smile on his face, and—no matter what—he always gave his 100 percent,” Gentile said. “John’s drive was simple. He was passionate about flying, and he believed everyone was important and, despite life’s challenges, everyone should live better than their yesterday.”

Gentile saw Graziano as a model son, a best friend, a dedicated instructor and an outstanding officer in the United States Air Force.

“For all the things John was, he would want to be remembered as an aviator,” Gentile said. “Since he was two, John dreamed of flying—of climbing into a cockpit and taking to the skies. It was what he loved and it’s what made him an Airman.”

Gentile believes it is because of Airmen like Graziano, who play such an integral part in the Air Force, make the Air Force so special.

“A nickel in the grass for Captain John Graziano,” Gentile concluded. “May his passion, love for life and incredible spirit live on with us.”