Commitment and Sacrifice

  • Published
  • By William Forkner
  • 56th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

It is a long-standing tradition as well as a source of pride for fighter pilots to have their name painted on the cockpit of an airplane. Having one’s name painted on a permanent static display aircraft is an even higher honor. Such a distinguished honor often comes with a substantial sacrifice. At Luke Air Force Base’s 56th Fighter Wing, the most prominent static display aircraft, a U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon in front of the wing commander’s building, pays tribute to 1st Lieutenant Brice Simpson. 

In 1998, Brice was assigned to the 14th Fighter Squadron, Misawa Air Base, Japan. On July 24th that same year, while taking off on a routine training mission, Lt. Simpson needed to abort his takeoff, but was unable to stop the aircraft on the runway. As the aircraft ran off the end of the runway, Brice accomplished a successful ejection, however, the aircraft impacted equipment just beyond the end of the runway and burst into flames. Lt. Simpson landed directly in the fire and suffered third-degree burns as well as internal injuries. Brice was airlifted to Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio but despite heroic efforts by the medical staff to save him, Lt. Simpson succumbed to his injuries and passed away on Sept. 17th.

Brice, a graduate of the United States Air Force Academy, excelled in pilot training at Sheppard Air Force Base, TX. He came to Luke AFB for F-16 training and quickly outpaced the classmates with his natural abilities and exceptional attitude. Lt. Simpson graduated a Distinguished Graduate and was named the Air-to-Ground "Top Gun," signifying him as the most capable pilot at delivering aircraft ordnance to ground targets. Brice was known by his friends as an enthusiastic Air Force Academy football fan and a steadfast family man who was devoted to his wife. Above all, he personified the Air Force core values of integrity and character as he consistently motivated and encouraged all of those around him. 

Lieutenant Simpson gave his life in defense of our country. Although not in direct conflict, his selfless commitment and sacrifice continues to serve as an inspiration to those who knew him and to those who honor him by memorializing his legacy. As we observe the 25th anniversary of Brice’s passing, we remember him with another fighter tradition of throwing a nickel on the grass, an expression of mutual respect from one warrior to another.  Through this small action, we celebrate his life, we honor his accomplishments, and we acknowledge his sacrifice.  Here’s a toast…