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Crusaders hold memorial service for fallen pilot

9 Jul 2004 | Lance Cpl. C. Alex Herron

A memorial service for a Canadian Air Force pilot serving with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 122 was held at the Air Station chapel, July 1.

Captain Derek R. Nichols died June 28 of injuries sustained after his F/A-18C Hornet crashed while landing aboard Fightertown earlier that day. Nichols was returning with VMFA-122 from a North Atlantic Treaty Organization exercise, Clean Hunter 2004, in Denmark.

The Tatamagouche, Nova Scotia native was attached to VMFA-122 since July 2001 under the Marine Corps Foreign Personnel Exchange Program.

Nichols, left a deep impression on many of the service members he served with while in Beaufort and had become part of the Air Station family, according to Lt. Col. Mark Wise, commanding officer, VMFA-122.

“(Capt. Nichols) worked in four different squadrons and touched everyone he met,” said Col. Bob Walsh, commanding officer, Marine Aircraft Group 31. “He and his family were able to become good friends with many Air Station service members and their families.”

While aboard the Air Station, Nichols bonded with another exchange pilot, Australian Flt. Lt. Dru “Dusty” Davidson, VMFA-122.

“I was one person who had a unique look into what Derek was like,” Davidson said. “With both of us being exchange pilots, we had a little in common. At first we were just the only two foreign pilots aboard the Air Station. After a while, we became close friends, sharing stories on deployments and working together. He was the best pilot I have ever been beaten by. It was always okay when you got beat by (Capt. Nichols), because you knew there was no one capable of having more fun while flying.”

The service included remarks from many of Nichols’ friends and colleagues from the Marine Corps and Canadian Air Force along with a moment of silence and the reading of a poem, “High Flight”

“I cannot put into words the sorrow I have for the family,” said Lt. Gen. K.R. Pennie, Chief of Staff, Canadian Air Force. “This is not only a loss for the family, but a loss for the country.”

Nichols is survived by his wife, Deanne and two young children.

“We’ve been like brothers for 28 years and his number one goal has been to be a good father to his two boys,” said Maj. Peter Earle. “You can see Derek’s face every time you look at those boys.”