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Silver Eagles mourn loss of fallen pilot, celebrate his life

By Lance Cpl. Justin V. Eckersley | | July 23, 2004

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Just after midnight on June 27, the Marines and Sailors of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 115 aboard the USS Harry S. Truman heard over the loudspeaker a reported downed aircraft.
The hours and days following the announcement only brought progressively worse news as they searched around the clock for the pilot.

After searching for 24 hours, Lt. Col. Jonathan D. Covington, commanding officer, VMFA-115, held a formation to announce that Capt. Franklin “Puj” Hooks, safety officer, VMFA-115, had been lost at sea.

“We had located the debris field where we believe Capt. Hooks’ jet crashed, and proceeded to search the area,” Covington said. “However, we were unable to locate Capt. Hooks. He is listed as lost at sea.”

The Sailors aboard the Truman worked hard aiding the Marines in their search for Hooks, according to Covington.

“The Sailors aboard the Truman worked long, hard hours to support us in our search,” Covington said. “So the next time you pass by a Sailor, say thanks for all his hard work.”

Although the loss of a fellow Marine hit the Silver Eagles hard, they continued to carry out their daily flight operations, according to Covington.

On June 29, a memorial service was held aboard the Truman for Hooks. The ceremony began with “Amazing Grace” and included several other passages from the Bible.

Several of Hooks’ fellow Marines stood to give eulogies and readings during the ceremony. Covington gave the command’s reflections on Hooks as a pilot and Marine.

The readings and speeches were followed by a video presentation that displayed pictures of Hooks throughout his career with ‘115 and ended with a video of him landing on the deck of the Truman.

During his time with the Silver Eagles, Hooks was known for his positive attitude and sharp sense of humor, according to Capt. Matthew R. McInerney, pilot, VMFA-115.

“He had this unique broad smile that showed every tooth in his mouth,” Capt. Matthew R. McInerney, pilot, VMFA-115 said. “And he never stayed on the bad side of things for long. He’d always be quickly found smiling again.”

Shortly after joining the Silver Eagles in December 2001, Hooks married his wife, Cindy.

“Cindy was the love of his life. After he met her, he really matured, became more responsible,” McInerney said.

Hooks enjoyed using his talents to help those around him, according to McInerney. He taught college math courses for the enlisted Marines, while deployed. His devotion to helping others was reflected in his own desire to improve himself.

“He was always trying to make himself a better Marine officer, pilot, just a better human being in general,” McInerney said.

Outside of the Marine Corps, Hooks also pursued music and enjoyed playing the guitar, according to McInerney.

“His wife bought him a guitar last Christmas, and he had started to work really hard and play a lot,” McInerney said. “We would get together and talk about different techniques.”
The strong bond of friendship between Hooks and his fellow Marines made their time together special in a heartfelt way, according to McInerney.

“He was just a great guy,” McInerney said. “In a lot of ways, the guys you spend time with in the squadron get to be closer to you than your families. They’re your brothers, because of that shared hardship, shared experiences, and shared camaraderie. He was one of my brothers, and he’s going to be missed.”
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