An emotional day in Westfield, and throughout western Massachusetts and the country as people learn of the passing of Lt. Col. Morris Fontenot, Jr.
"We were hoping that he would be found safe and sound and return to his family and it was devastating to hear that he didn't make it," Westfield resident Lynn MacFarland said.
The community of Westfield is saddened by the loss of Fontenot, a full-time wing inspector general for the 104th Fighter Wing.
"The 104th is such a big part of the greater Westfield family and so as I've said when any part of that family goes missing or gets hurt, the entire family mourns," State Sen. Donald Humason said.
Fontenot had just joined the Massachusetts National Guard six months ago after active duty assignments across the globe, including deployments to the Middle East.
The decorated combat veteran had more than 2,300 flight hours as an F-15C fighter pilot. He was an instructor and was also responsible for the implementation of the Air Force inspection system.
Community members on Friday called his work heroic and were thankful for his service.
"We live right up there by the airport and to me that is the sound of freedom," MacFarland said.
Congressman Richard Neal, D- Springfield, released the following statement on Friday:
"I am deeply saddened that Lt Col Morris Fontenot Jr. of the 104th Fighter Wing was killed this week when his F-15 jet crashed in Virginia on a cross country mission. Lt. Col Fontenot was a highly decorated pilot with considerable flight experience who served his country with honor and distinction for more than a decade. He spent his professional career faithfully defending the United States during times of war and peace. I join his colleagues at Barnes, the men and women of the Air National Guard, and the people of western Massachusetts in mourning the loss of this brave and courageous man. During this time of sorrow, my thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends."
The Mayor of Westfield says he too stands with the 104th Fighter Wing.
"We will certainly be with them as arrangements are made to put the final burial to the pilot," Mayor Daniel Knapik said.
CBS 3 will continue to keep you updated with those arrangements, as well as the investigation into the crash.
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