A memorial service is planned Wednesday at Aviano Air Base in Italy for Lucas Gruenther, an Air Force pilot from Twain Harte who died last week after his plane crashed into the Adriatic Sea.
Gruenther received a posthumous promotion from captain to major, Air Force officials confirmed. He had fulfilled the requirements for the promotion but had not yet received it.
Search crews from Italy and the United States spent three days looking for Gruenther after his F-16 disappeared Jan. 28 during a nighttime training exercise.
They found wreckage from his Fighting Falcon on Wednesday before locating and recovering his body Thursday.
Gruenther's 31st Fighter Wing will hold Wednesday's service, at which commander Brig. Gen. Scott Zobrist and Gruenther's wife and mother are expected to speak.
Gruenther's family has set up a remembrance website and are asking folks who knew the 32-year-old pilot to share memories of him for his soon-to-be-born daughter.
Gruenther's wife, Cassy, is expecting the baby, to be named Serene, in a couple of weeks.
"Cassy would love to receive letters telling stories of how they know Lucas so that she can share them with Serene when she is older and she will know who her father is," the family said on the site.
Alex Gruenther, Luc Gruenther's brother, said the outpouring of support from family, friends and the public "has been amazing." Lots of people have asked how they can help, so the family set up two funds — one for Serene and a memorial fund "to support special people who exemplify Luc's spirits and qualities."
Letters, condolences and remembrances may be sent to Cassy Gruenther, PSC 103, Box 2718, APO, AE 09603-0028.
For more information, go to www.lucasgruenther.com.
Breaking News Editor Patty Guerra can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2343. Follow her on Twitter, @pattyguerra.