Capt Nicholas T. Giglio
Hometown: Lacey, NJ.
Died: October 15, 2009.
Unit: 77th Fighter Sqn, 20th Fighter Wing, Shaw AFB.
LACEY — Several hundred people came together Sunday afternoon in Lacey High School's auditorium to pay tribute to a graduate who reached his life's dream of being an Air Force fighter pilot and whose devotion to family, God and country were described as inspirational.
The memorial service called a "Celebration of Life" honored Captain Nicholas Thomas Giglio who died on October 15, 2009, when his F-16 jet collided with another fighter pilot's aircraft. The 32-year-old fighter pilot was unable to eject after the collision, which took place about 40 miles northeast of Charleston, South Carolina.
Giglio was a 1995 graduate of Lacey High School. Members of his family, lifelong friends and clergy spoke about Giglio, describing him as a soft-spoken, kind man who, like his grandfather, had a strong sense of duty to his country as a member of the Air Force.
The ceremony began with a military honor guard and continued with two Christian musical performances. Enlarged photographs of Giglio with members of his family were present on stage.
Giglio had been assigned to the Shaw Air Force Base's 20th Fighter Wing. He had been a fighter pilot for 18 months and was part of the 77th Fighter Squadron at the time of the accident. He was in training for a scheduled deployment to Iraq early next year.
While a student, Giglio was a member of the Civil Air Patrol and was active in a number of school activities. He joined the school's marching band to be closer to a student who would later become his wife.
Lee Giglio, who is pregnant with the couple's second child, spoke during the ceremony about their life together. "We were best friends, sweethearts and soul mates."
"I was a freshman, and he was in 8th grade. I wasn't an easy catch, and he spent three years of pursuit, but he would walk me to class and bring me candy canes at Christmas time. It was on October 3, 1993, when he first asked me out. That was the beginning of a fun and loving relationship for the next 16 years."
Despite fears of a long distance relationship between her attendance at a college in Pennsylvania and his Air Force training, the couple dated for five years and wed on July 1, 2000.
"He proposed near a Ruby Tuesdays in Scranton and read me a Valentine's Day poem, which asked me to marry him. Our wedding day was just perfect and during the reception he and several of his ROTC buddies sang "You've Lost that Loving Feeling" from that scene in Top Gun. It was always his lifelong dream to become a pilot," she added.
"He loved being a father. He loved to go places with Grace. He called her his "Grace Face.' Nick was so excited about learning of our expecting a second child," his wife added.
"He was a shining example for our town. He reached his life's dream," Lacey Committeeman Dave Most told Giglio's father Jerry, prior to the ceremony.
"This turnout is amazing," school board member Jack Martenak said of the large crowd that nearly filled the auditorium.
Jerry Giglio said his son will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery on December 18, 2009, which was his son's birthday. Giglio's mother, Helen, is a special education teacher at the Cedar Creek Elementary School. Last year, her son served as a speaker for career day at the school.
"Today is about how he touched our lives and how he lives on in heaven," Lee Giglio said. She thanked family, friends, and the community for all the support her family has received.
SHAW AIR FORCE BASE — The Sumter community and the nation has lost a great American and a true patriot.
Those were the somber words of Col. Joseph Guastella, 20th Fighter Wing commander, who had the tough job of informing the public Saturday that a Thursday night collision took the life of Capt. Nicholas "Nick" Giglio, an F-16 pilot who didn't return from a training mission after a mid-air mishap over the Atlantic Ocean.
Coast Guard Commander of Sector Charleston Capt. Michael McAllister noted that aircraft, helicopters, cutters and boats from the Air Force, Navy, Coast Guard, law enforcement and Good Samaritans searched a collective 167 hours that covered 8,000 square miles of the Atlantic Ocean about 30 nautical miles northeast of Charleston in hopes of finding Giglio. But the search has been suspended.
No trace of Giglio was found, Guastella said.
"However, our investigation of the mishap revealed that the mid-air collision itself was traumatic," he said, explaining that detailed analysis of the speed and geometry of Giglio's collision with Capt. Lee Bryant's F-16 resulted in fatal injuries to Giglio, who was not able to safely eject from his plane.
An oil slick found Thursday night after the collision was consistent with the 20,000 pounds of jet fuel Giglio's plane was carrying, McAllister said, also saying that only small pieces of debris have been found, but there's no confirmation that any of those pieces came from the downed jet, which ditched in an ocean span that's 50 feet deep.
Guastella said extensive analysis of the collision and interviews with Bryant showed Giglio struck the bottom and left wing of Bryant's plane, with a direct blow to Giglio's canopy, which was breached.
"It's rare that we have a mishap," he said, as pilots put in thousands of hours of training during exercises that are designed to be safe while also being "realistic flight profiles."
Giglio and Bryant were on a routine, close air support training mission, he said.
"Basically practicing the types of things they would do if deployed down range," he said. "It wasn't anything abnormal," and the pilots were on the way home when the collision occurred.
Everyone at Shaw has been shaken by the incident, he said, and is working with a "heavy heart" while remaining focused on the mission of protecting the nation and providing its security.
Bryant, Guastella said, was "quite shocked" and had to focus completely on landing his aircraft at Charleston Air Force Base, which he characterized as "miraculous."
Guastella instructed Giglio on his first flight at Shaw and also said that Giglio's wife, Leigh, is expecting a sibling for their daughter, Grace.
"Certainly we will miss him," he said, sending thoughts and prayers from everyone at Shaw to Giglio's family and friends.
Giglio's squadron will resume flying on Tuesday, he added.
A memorial service has been planned, but the date has not been announced.