Ten days after Hurricane Michael ravaged U.S. Air Force Maj. Jeremy Boudreaux's home and Tyndall Air Force Base, he got a call that his father was killed in a plane crash approximately 30 miles northwest of Eglin Air Force Base.
"A close family friend owned the plane my dad was flying. He called and said there was a report of a plane down in the area and my dad had not returned to the airport," said Boudreaux, 83rd Fighter Weapon Squadron, F-22 program manager. "He soon called back and put the local sheriff on the line to notify me that my dad had been killed in a plane crash near the airport he took off from."
Boudreaux and his wife, Jessie, had evacuated to Auburn, Alabama but when they got the call that his father passed away they drove to the crash site.
"Initially I was in shock but was able to quickly compartmentalize my emotions and focus on the task at hand," said Boudreaux. "The many outstanding instructors in the Raptor community have consistently helped others achieve their goals, shared their knowledge and experience and continue to strengthen the fighter community and the military as a whole. They taught me how to set priorities and tackle the correct ones in critical situations. This situation was no exception. The next thing I had to do was to notify my mom."
Earlier this year Boudreaux was named Air Combat Command's Instructor Pilot of the Year and credits his father for helping him discover his passion for flying.
"In my eyes my father was always a larger than life fighter pilot," he said. "I joined ROTC but didn't have a career path in mind. It didn't take long for me to realize I wanted to be a pilot. The fact that I could connect even more with my dad and share that special pilot brotherhood is something for which I will be eternally grateful."
Boudreaux and Jessie met in high school and married in 2015. During countless temporary duty assignments and deployments Jessie found a support network within the military community that has carried her family through some of life's greatest challenges.
"I have been dealing with some heart issues caused by thyroid dysfunction. Fortunately things have leveled back out, but it has been a long road. The biggest lesson I took from this journey is to not be afraid to reach out to people when you are dealing with adversity," said Jessie. "Our friends and family have been our rock. The love we have felt from the Raptor community and beyond has been invaluable. It's surrounding us and lifting us up and we will never be able to adequately thank everyone for their kindness and support."
The Boudreaux's have a positive outlook on the future and will remember the legacy left by a fellow Air Force aviator.
"My dad was a great example of an airman, a patriot, a husband, a father, a son, a brother and a friend. His legacy is one of love, hope, thankfulness and happiness. We would all do well to try to live our lives the way he did. And through this difficult experience, the incredible friendship and relationships with the people with whom we work has been invaluable and will never be forgotten."