Fund started for family of missing F-16 pilot

CNJ staff

A memorial fund has been set up for the family of Air Force pilot Troy Gilbert, whose F-16 jet crashed Monday in Iraq.

Donations may be made to the Gilbert Family Memorial Fund, in honor of Maj. Gilbert, whose wife, Ginger, is a Clovis native. The fund was announced Saturday by the Bank of Clovis, the Clovis News Journal and the Portales News-Tribune.

People may drop off their donations either at the bank, 300 Main St., or the newspaper offices, 521 Pile St. in Clovis and 101 E. First in Portales. They will be deposited in a Bank of Clovis account.

Donations for the non-profit memorial fund also are being raised in Arizona, where the pilot was stationed at Luke Air Force Base near Phoenix. The jet he was flying was from a Cannon Air Force Base squadron.

The family has approved the fund, said bank president Randy Harris and newspaper publisher Ray Sullivan, and they thank everyone for their thoughts and prayers.

“The fund is another way for residents of the region and Cannon Air Force Base families to support the Gilberts in the coming months and years,” Sullivan said. “While Maj. Gilbert wasn’t stationed here, he was flying a Cannon plane. That and his family ties mean he is one of us.”

Troy and Ginger Gilbert were married at Cannon. They have five young children and live in Glendale, Ariz. Her parents are Jay and Judi Gurley of Clovis. Jay Gurley is communications director of ENMR-Plateau, former president of Clovis Community College, and president of the Board of Regents for Eastern New Mexico University in Portales.

Gilbert was flying an F-16CG on a close-air support mission for ground troops under fire when the crash occurred Monday. The crash site is in an area 20 miles northwest of Baghdad where many Sunni-Arab insurgents operate.

Air Force officials said insurgents reached the pilot before U.S. forces, but that later some human remains were recovered. They would not elaborate, but said figuring out whether Gilbert is dead depended largely on those remains, which were undergoing DNA identification.

Officials have said they don’t believe the jet was shot down and the cause is being investigated.