Community honors American hero |

Community honors American hero

Ryan Hoffman

NEW CASTLE — Perhaps the most noticeable feature of the Capt. Will “Pyro” DuBois memorial is the beaming smile carved in the face of the statue honoring the fallen fighter pilot.

As Ham DuBois, Will’s father, noted before the crowd of hundreds at a dedication ceremony in New Castle’s Grand River Park Saturday, the sculptor recommended a more reserved facial expression, but the family could not find a photo without Will’s smile.

Others who spoke Saturday also referenced Will’s trademark expression — a smile that was indicative of his zest for life.

“The thing I remember about Will was he was the kind of young man who people liked,” Garfield County Commissioner Mike Samson, a former educator who knew Will while he was a student at Rifle High School, said. “It seemed like he always had a smile on his face, it was a little mischievous, but he liked to have fun. … And he wanted to fly.”

Will, a respected fighter pilot in the U.S. Air Force, died Dec. 1, 2014, when his F-16 crashed in Jordan while on a mission against ISIS. A patriot who loved his country, it was his 19th mission against ISIS since being deployed in October 2014.

Will excelled in everything he did, including being a pilot, commented Maj. Gen. H. Michael Edwards, who read a proclamation by Gov. John Hickenlooper officially declaring Sept. 10, 2016 as Will “Pyro” DuBois day.

“He was just an amazing, amazing young officer …” Edwards said.

While not refuting that point, he was more than just a fighter pilot, Ham said.

He was a son, a hero, a brother, an uncle and Ham’s moral compass.

“He was what I would call good people,” Ham said of his son, who was fond of saying anything worth doing in life is worth overdoing.

Chants of Pyro, a nickname he earned during pilot school, rang out as the family pulled a giant parachute off the statue — a monument that would have never been possible without the support of the entire community from Aspen to Parachute, said New Castle Mayor Art Riddile.

When a group of family friends and community leaders set out to have the sculpture built, they expected they would need $120,000. Donated items brought that cost down, and after raising $117,000, roughly $5,000 will be donated to the Pyro’s Wings Foundation, a scholarship fund created by the DuBois family to provide financial assistance to future combat pilots.

The first recipient of that scholarship, 2nd. Lt. Andrew Marshall, was present Saturday. He first met Will as a freshman at University of Colorado.

Marshall, who had a general feeling of what he wanted to do but was not 100 percent certain, listened to Will speak during at a career fair event.

“Will inspired me,” Marshall said.

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