Novi Air Force airman remembered by hometown

Sarah Rahal
The Detroit News

Novi — About 100 people gathered Saturday morning to remember 33-year-old Air Force pilot Maj. Andrew Becker who died in March in a flight training mission.

The Shrine Legion of Honor presents their colors during a memorial in memory of Major Andrew Becker in Novi on Saturday.

Becker from Novi, Capt. Kenneth Dalga, 29, from Goldsboro, N.C., and co-pilot, 1st Lt. Fredrick Dellecker, 26, from Daytona Beach, Fla., were killed in a Air Force flight training mission on March 14.

All three were assigned to the 318th Special Operations Squadron at Cannon in New Mexico.

The city of Novi hosted the ceremony to unveil a memorial to Becker with his family members, Novi school colleagues, several local, state, national and military officials.

The memorial included a tree, plaque and stone bench inscribed with“Andy’s Bench” with copper boots and a fallen heros flag. His mother Stacey Becker and wife Shelly Becker laid roses on the bench which forever sits outside of Novi’s Civic Center.

Stacey Becker, left, mother of Air Force Maj. Andrew Becker and his widow Shelly Becker share a moment after they unveiled a memorial bench at the Novi Civic Center on Saturday.

The Novi native served in the Air Force for 10 years and was leading the flight training mission when the aircraft crashed upon landing. He has been awarded 22 Air Force service medals, including a Meritorious Service medal.

His family has lived in Novi for 42 years, said Novi Mayor Bob Gatt. He said Becker attended public schools, played on the wrestling, football team, danced in the musicals at Novi High and was woven into the fabric of the community.

“Just seven days of beginning his senior year at Novi High School, our country was attacked on Sept. 11. Less than a month later Andy told his parents he knew what he was going to do after high school, he would go to college at Embry–Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona and would join the Air Force ROTC program there...the biggest and best program,” Gatt said.

After graduating in 2007, he was selected to fly a relatively new aircraft involved with combat mission support. He was later assigned to special forces at Cannon Air Force base in New Mexico and served seven years and rose in the ranks to captain.

Becker was deployed nine times to fly 459 combat missions, logging over 2,000 hours in Afghanistan, Iraq and other undisclosed countries.

Lt. Col. David Erpelding said crew members were training for an upcoming deployment in which they would taken from that day to combat operations in less than 45 days.

“Andy loved to fly and answer our nations call,” Erpleding said. “Major Becker was deployed 733 days. He was the pilot everyone wanted to fly with and the person each upcoming pilot wanted to be.”

Becker’s father, Gary Becker also spoke at the memorial speaking on the scarcity of time, the greatest value of all.

“Those who serve pay the price of time. Andy’s sacrifice was his time away from his family to celebrate birthdays, funerals, Christmases, graduations and on March 14 was the sacrifice of all his time, of all his tomorrows,” Gary Becker said. “We should change the sacrifice of their time from a cost to an investment. We’ve been given time and freedom, let us invest both into bettering human kind.”

The cause of the single-engine U-28A's crash near the Clovis Municipal Airport continues to be under investigation, and Cannon Air Force Base officials have said there was no indication of any problems with the plane before it went down in a field about 3 miles from the base.

“An air force captain speaking at one of Andy’s memorials said, ‘There’s no difference between dying in a training accident and dying in combat.’ He died serving me, our country, my family and as a citizen, I am grateful,” Gatt said. “Our Novi community...could not be more proud. When asked, he was always proud to say he was from Novi, Michigan; We can always be proud to say he is one of us.”

Becker was pursuing a masters in space studies at American Military University and began writing a thesis titled, “Defying the Limits of Outer space.” He was set to be promoted to Major this summer.

Twitter: @SarahRahal_