The 104th Fighter Wing is a big part of the small city of Westfield, Massachusetts, so when news broke this week that a fighter pilot out of Barnes Air Base in Westfield had gone down in western Virginia, hearts sank all around the city.
As WWLP Local News reported on Aug. 29, the talk of the town was the hopes that the missing pilot would be found safe and sound, but that didn’t play out that way. The pilot, who was just recently identified as Lt. Col. Morris Fontenot, or “Moose” to those who knew him, wasn’t able to eject out of the downed jet.
Senator Don Humason, who is born and bred in Westfield, Massachusetts, conveyed just how much the 104th is like family to this community. Fontenot was a newer member of the 104th, joining that unit just six months ago, but he was a veteran pilot with a stellar record.
For more than a day as the search for the downed pilot was underway you couldn’t stand in a grocery store line, walk up to a convenience store counter or get in line for a cup of coffee in Westfield without the hopes of finding the pilot alive becoming part of the conversation.
After the sad news broke that the pilot had been found dead, sadness gripped the Westfield area. At the Big Y grocery store on West Silver Street, one of the men who bags the groceries was hanging his head as he spoke to customers about the terrible tragedy in town. It was apparent that people were in mourning.
Fontenot served with the 104th Fighter Wing as the full-time wing inspector general, along with the important position of being an F-15 instructor pilot. With 2,300 flight hours under his belt from his 17-years of flying the F-15s, he was one of the more experienced pilots. He had earned numerous service medals, reports the Canada Journal.
The medals Fontenot earned included; the Meritorious Service Medal, Air Medal, Aerial Achievement Medal, Air Force Commendation Medal, Air Force Achievement Medal, and Combat Readiness Medal among others. The delay in releasing the pilot’s name to the media was so that the family members could first be notified.