Courage. Honor. Bravery.
Those are just a few of the descriptors bestowed upon Maj. Paul J. Weaver, an Air Force Academy graduate and member of the Spirit 03 aircrew killed during Operation Desert Storm in 1991.
On Friday, Weaver's sacrifice became part of academy legacy when a memorial statue was dedicated during a ceremony at the honor court on campus. Weaver, who was a native of Alamosa, is the first academy graduate to be remembered on its honor court.
The academy's class of 1979, Weaver's graduating class, funded the memorial — a project costing over half a million dollars.
“Our prime directive at the Air Force Academy is to develop leaders of character and this is the bond that is the long blue line," said Academy Superintendent Lt. Gen Richard M. Clark. "Major Weaver understood what it meant to be a part of that legacy. He led Spirit 03 with honor and courage as an example of our great institution.”
Friday’s ceremony included a flyover of the modern-day AC-130H .
Weaver was the acting aircraft commander of AC-130H Spectra gunship Spirit 03 of the 16th Special Operations Squadron, a part of the Air Force Special Operations Command.
In the early morning hours of Jan. 31, 1991, Weaver alongside 13 members of his crew, answered a call to service after completing an overnight mission. The current commander of the 16th Special Operation Squadron, Lt. Col. Colin LeFavor, recounted on Friday the events leading to the attack of Spirit 03.
“These brave men flew past their station time into the early morning hours, just after daylight broke, to provide lifesaving close air support to Marines taking heavy fire during the earliest days of Desert Storm,” LeFavor said.
Weaver was flying in support of the Marines operations in action near the Kuwaiti border .
“As they were en route to base, Spirit 03’s radios lit up, requesting immediate air support to save a platoon of Marines overwhelmed by enemy fire. With ammunition and gas to spare, these brave air commanders returned to the fight at great risk to themselves to protect the endangered Marines,” LeFavor said. “Returning to battle to meet the enemy, the mighty warriors of Spirit 03 made the ultimate sacrifice when the enemy surfaced air fire came up to meet them.”
The attack on Spirit 03 was the largest single loss of life by an Air Force unit during Operation Desert Storm.
The class of ’79 supported the creation and placement of the Spirit 03 memorial, raising more than $2 million, a quarter of the proceeds went to funding this project.
The memorial, a replica of the AC-130H aircraft, was created by sculptor Jim Vance, a member of the academy’s class of 1971.
In attendance at Friday’s ceremony were Karen Roberts and Jennifer Lavery, sisters of Weaver.
“Paul was proud to have graduated from the Air Force Academy, and very proud of the work he did while serving in the Air Force, and of the men and woman with whom he served,” Roberts said. “I can say with certainty Paul would have been most honored and deeply, deeply moved that you chose to remember Spirit 03 in this manner.
“He made the comment one time that he was worried he would never do anything he’d be remembered for. Now he’ll be remembered here forever.”
Lavery said she remembers her brother as a humble and kind individual.
“It’s crazy what these guys did for him, and they did it themselves — it’s not an easy feat to say let’s raise a million dollars,” Lavery said, “I appreciate them. I’m always in awe of the work these guys do.”
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