MANIAGO, ITALY - The body of a former Sheppard Air Force Base (SAFB) graduate was found Thursday off the Italian coast.
Captain Lucas Gruenther had been missing since Monday when his F-16 disappeared on a training mission in the Adriatic Sea.
Aviano Air Force Base released the following statement on behalf of the Gruenther family:
"It is with great sadness that we announce that the body of Captain Lucas Gruenther was found in the Adriatic Sea this afternoon. A compassionate husband, a loving son, and a devoted brother; Luc leaves behind a family who loves him dearly and a legacy of achievement. We will never fully recover from our loss, but take heart in the knowledge that during his all-too-short time in this world, he made a significant difference in the lives of all whom he met.
"We would like to thank the people around the world for your messages and your prayers. We especially want to extend our deepest gratitude to the many people who volunteered their time and resources to help bring Luc home."
Newschannel spoke with Col. Dieter Bareihs, the 80th Flying Training Wing commander at SAFB. He said this incident is a reminder that pilots are constantly put at risk, even when they're not in combat. "It's a tragic incident, and our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends first and foremost. It's always difficult to lose one of your own."
Capt. Gruenther was a student at SAFB. He graduated in 2005 and become a T-37 instructor pilot until 2008. He later taught Intro to Fighter Fundamentals -- training to fly the F-16.
Col. Bareihs talked about the mark Capt. Gruenther made at SAFB. "Some of his students are now back to take the pilot instructor training courses he had. His students are now able to share that same knowledge and skills to a new generation," Col. Dieter Bareihs said.
A memorial page set up at www.lucasgruenther.com. His wife is asking for stories about him to be posted on this page to be able to share them with their unborn daughter when she is older.