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97 AMW honors fallen WWII Airman with KC-46 flyover

The family of U.S. Army Air Forces 2nd Lt. Ernest Vienneau, former 97th Bombardment Group (BG) pilot, watches as a KC-46 Pegasus from the 97th Air Mobility Wing (AMW) approaches in the distance at Millinocket, Maine, Oct. 9, 2021. The 97th BG at the time of Vienneau’s service was in Amendola, Italy, and has since changed its name and location to the 97th AMW in Altus, Oklahoma. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Cody Dowell)

The family of U.S. Army Air Forces 2nd Lt. Ernest Vienneau, former 97th Bombardment Group (BG) pilot, watches as a KC-46 Pegasus from the 97th Air Mobility Wing (AMW) approaches in the distance at Millinocket, Maine, Oct. 9, 2021. The 97th BG at the time of Vienneau’s service was in Amendola, Italy, and has since changed its name and location to the 97th AMW in Altus, Oklahoma. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Cody Dowell)

A U.S. Air Force aircrew badge lies broken on the casket of U.S. Army Air Forces 2nd Lt. Ernest Vienneau, former 97th Bombardment Group pilot, during his funeral at Millinocket, Maine, Oct. 9, 2021. As a good luck tradition, initial pilot graduates break their wings into two parts. To preserve good luck, the halves should never be brought together while the pilot is alive and after their passing they are brought together for good luck in the next life. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Cody Dowell)

A U.S. Air Force aircrew badge lies broken on the casket of U.S. Army Air Forces 2nd Lt. Ernest Vienneau, former 97th Bombardment Group pilot, during his funeral at Millinocket, Maine, Oct. 9, 2021. As a good luck tradition, initial pilot graduates break their wings into two parts. To preserve good luck, the halves should never be brought together while the pilot is alive and after their passing they are brought together for good luck in the next life. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Cody Dowell)

Chelsea Carbonell, great niece of U.S. Army Air Forces 2nd Lt. Ernest Vienneau, former 97th Bombardment Group pilot, looks at a letter and coin from the commander of the 97th Air Mobility Wing (AMW) during Vienneau’s funeral at Millinocket, Maine, Oct. 9, 2021. These tokens of appreciation were presented non behalf of the current 97th AMW commander, U.S. Air Force Col. Blaine Baker. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Cody Dowell)

Chelsea Carbonell, great niece of U.S. Army Air Forces 2nd Lt. Ernest Vienneau, former 97th Bombardment Group pilot, looks at a letter and coin from the commander of the 97th Air Mobility Wing (AMW) during Vienneau’s funeral at Millinocket, Maine, Oct. 9, 2021. These tokens of appreciation were presented non behalf of the current 97th AMW commander, U.S. Air Force Col. Blaine Baker. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Cody Dowell)

U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Brad Edwards, 58th Airlift Squadron loadmaster, presents a plaque from the 97th Air Mobility Wing (AMW) to the family of U.S. Army Air Forces 2nd Lt. Ernest Vienneau, former 97th Bombardment Group pilot, during Vienneau’s funeral at Millinocket, Maine, Oct. 9, 2021. The plaque showcased the aircraft that Vienneau flew and the aircraft that was flown over the funeral by members of the 97th AMW. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Cody Dowell)

U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Brad Edwards, 58th Airlift Squadron loadmaster, presents a plaque from the 97th Air Mobility Wing (AMW) to the family of U.S. Army Air Forces 2nd Lt. Ernest Vienneau, former 97th Bombardment Group pilot, during Vienneau’s funeral at Millinocket, Maine, Oct. 9, 2021. The plaque showcased the aircraft that Vienneau flew and the aircraft that was flown over the funeral by members of the 97th AMW. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Cody Dowell)

Kelly McKeague, Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) director, presents a plaque from his agency to the family of U.S. Army Air Forces 2nd Lt. Ernest Vienneau, former 97th Bombardment Group pilot, during Vienneau’s funeral at Millinocket, Maine, Oct. 9, 2021. The DPAA vision is to provide a world-class workforce that fulfills the nation’s obligation by maximizing the number of missing personnel accounted for while ensuring timely, accurate information is provided to their families. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Cody Dowell)

Kelly McKeague, Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) director, presents a plaque from his agency to the family of U.S. Army Air Forces 2nd Lt. Ernest Vienneau, former 97th Bombardment Group pilot, during Vienneau’s funeral at Millinocket, Maine, Oct. 9, 2021. The DPAA vision is to provide a world-class workforce that fulfills the nation’s obligation by maximizing the number of missing personnel accounted for while ensuring timely, accurate information is provided to their families. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Cody Dowell)

U.S. Army Maj. Jeff Whitten, Maine Army National Guard state partnership program director, salutes the flag after presenting it to the family of U.S. Army Air Forces 2nd Lt. Ernest Vienneau, former 97th Bombardment Group pilot, as a KC-46 Pegasus from the 97th Air Mobility Wing approaches in the distance at Millinocket, Maine, Oct. 9, 2021. After the folding, presenting, passing, lowering, or raising of the American Flag, U.S. military members salute the flag as a form of honor and respect. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Cody Dowell)

U.S. Army Maj. Jeff Whitten, Maine Army National Guard state partnership program director, salutes the flag after presenting it to the family of U.S. Army Air Forces 2nd Lt. Ernest Vienneau, former 97th Bombardment Group pilot, as a KC-46 Pegasus from the 97th Air Mobility Wing approaches in the distance at Millinocket, Maine, Oct. 9, 2021. After the folding, presenting, passing, lowering, or raising of the American Flag, U.S. military members salute the flag as a form of honor and respect. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Cody Dowell)

Members of the U.S. Army Honor Guard team from Fort Drum, New York, fold the American Flag for the funeral of U.S. Army Air Forces 2nd Lt. Ernest Vienneau, former 97th Bombardment Group pilot, at Millinocket, Maine, Oct. 9, 2021. The flag is ceremonially folded 13 times in a specific manner, with each fold having its own specific meaning. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Cody Dowell)

Members of the U.S. Army Honor Guard team from Fort Drum, New York, fold the American Flag for the funeral of U.S. Army Air Forces 2nd Lt. Ernest Vienneau, former 97th Bombardment Group pilot, at Millinocket, Maine, Oct. 9, 2021. The flag is ceremonially folded 13 times in a specific manner, with each fold having its own specific meaning. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Cody Dowell)

Members of the U.S. Army Honor Guard team from Fort Drum, New York, perform “Taps” for the funeral of U.S. Army Air Forces 2nd Lt. Ernest Vienneau, former 97th Bombardment Group pilot, at Millinocket, Maine, Oct. 9, 2021. Taps is a bugle melody played at military funerals and memorials as well as a lights-out signal to service members at night, which dates back to the American Civil War. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Cody Dowell)

Members of the U.S. Army Honor Guard team from Fort Drum, New York, perform “Taps” for the funeral of U.S. Army Air Forces 2nd Lt. Ernest Vienneau, former 97th Bombardment Group pilot, at Millinocket, Maine, Oct. 9, 2021. Taps is a bugle melody played at military funerals and memorials as well as a lights-out signal to service members at night, which dates back to the American Civil War. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Cody Dowell)

Members of the U.S. Army Honor Guard team from Fort Drum, New York, carry the casket of U.S. Army Air Forces 2nd Lt. Ernest Vienneau, former 97th Bombardment Group pilot, at Millinocket, Maine, Oct. 9, 2021. Military Honor Guard teams render professional military funeral honors, in accordance with service tradition, to all eligible veterans when requested by an authorized family member. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Cody Dowell)

Members of the U.S. Army Honor Guard team from Fort Drum, New York, carry the casket of U.S. Army Air Forces 2nd Lt. Ernest Vienneau, former 97th Bombardment Group pilot, at Millinocket, Maine, Oct. 9, 2021. Military Honor Guard teams render professional military funeral honors, in accordance with service tradition, to all eligible veterans when requested by an authorized family member. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Cody Dowell)

Motorcyclists from the Patriot Riders escort the procession team for the funeral of U.S. Army Air Forces 2nd Lt. Ernest Vienneau, former 97th Bombardment Group pilot, at Millinocket, Maine, Oct. 9, 2021. Groups like this form a voluntary honor guard at military burials, to help protect mourners from harassment and fill out the ranks at burials. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Cody Dowell)
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Motorcyclists from the Patriot Riders escort the procession team for the funeral of U.S. Army Air Forces 2nd Lt. Ernest Vienneau, former 97th Bombardment Group pilot, at Millinocket, Maine, Oct. 9, 2021. Groups like this form a voluntary honor guard at military burials, to help protect mourners from harassment and fill out the ranks at burials. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Cody Dowell)

The KC-46 Pegasus aircrew that formed the flyover team for the funeral of U.S. Army Air Forces Lt. Ernest Vienneau, former 97th Bombardment Group (BG) pilot, stand next to their aircraft at Pease Air National Guard Base, New Hampshire, Oct. 8, 2021. Over time, the 97th BG  became the 97th Air Mobility Wing that these Airmen are assigned to today. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Cody Dowell)
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The KC-46 Pegasus aircrew that formed the flyover team for the funeral of U.S. Army Air Forces Lt. Ernest Vienneau, former 97th Bombardment Group (BG) pilot, stand next to their aircraft at Pease Air National Guard Base, New Hampshire, Oct. 8, 2021. Over time, the 97th BG became the 97th Air Mobility Wing that these Airmen are assigned to today. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Cody Dowell)

A flag is hung in the back of a KC-46 Pegasus at Altus Air Force Base, Oklahoma, Oct. 8, 2021. This flag was flown inside the aircraft for the funeral of U.S. Army Air Forces 2nd Lt. Ernest Vienneau, former 97th Bombardment Group pilot, to be later given to Veinneau’s family. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Cody Dowell)
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A flag is hung in the back of a KC-46 Pegasus at Altus Air Force Base, Oklahoma, Oct. 8, 2021. This flag was flown inside the aircraft for the funeral of U.S. Army Air Forces 2nd Lt. Ernest Vienneau, former 97th Bombardment Group pilot, to be later given to Veinneau’s family. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Cody Dowell)

ALTUS AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. --

The history of The 97th Air Mobility Wing’s “Triangle Y” symbol dates back to when the 97th Bombardment Group flew missions out of Amendola, Italy during WWII. That unit is known today as the 97th Air Mobility Wing, located at Altus Air Force Base. Since then, the wing has switched its mission of tactical aerial support to extending global mobility reach. 

That legacy resurfaced when the remains of U.S. Army Air Forces 2nd Lt. Ernest Vienneau, former 97th BG pilot, were found and laid to rest in Millinocket, Maine, on Oct. 9, 2021, after being lost at sea for more than 75 years. Vienneau and his aircraft were unable to return to their home station in 1944 after running out of fuel during a mission, forcing the rest of his crew to swim roughly half a mile before being rescued by the natives of the island of Vis, Yugoslavia. To honor Veinneau’s legacy, members of the 97th AMW performed a flyover in a KC-46 Pegasus during his funeral to honor his life and service. 

“It is pretty amazing to be a part of this team to honor the legacy of Lt. Vienneau,” said Maj. Steve Pike, 56th Air Refueling Squadron KC-46 pilot. “Being from Maine myself, it is truly humbling to be a part of this ceremony and I am so glad we could pay respect to his family. The entire maintenance and aircrew team took this mission very seriously and we are so happy to see Lt. Vienneau get the respect that he has paid the ultimate sacrifice for.”

A majority of Vienneau’s family was able to properly say goodbye at his funeral, as members of the Patriot Riders escorted the funeral procession, Soldiers of the Army Honor Guard team from Fort Drum, New York, presented proper military honors, in addition to the 97th AMW’s flyover. Chelsea Carbonell, Viennau’s great niece and next of kin, said this was the proper way to remember Vienneau.

“I think (finding his remains) is bigger than just my family. I think it’s bigger than just Millinocket and I think it is bigger than me,” said Chelsea Carbonell, great niece of Vienneau and next of kin. “I feel like right now, with everything that’s been going on in our country, this is a hopeful occurrence to remind Americans of hope and who we really are. So, I think this (ceremony) belongs to everyone.”

According to Carbonell, her uncle had eight brothers who also served in the military and six of them served during WWII, all of which volunteered to enter the armed services. She added that it makes her proud to honor her family’s legacy of service.

“We are very honored and proud that he, his brothers and even his sisters served,” Carbonell added. “When looking back at pictures of Ernest when he was so young, he had his whole life ahead of him and he was willing to go and serve. We are just so proud of him and we should continue to honor veterans and their families more.”

Since WWII, the aircraft Vienneau flew, the B-17 Flying Fortress, C-47 Skytrain, C-45 Expeditor, B-47 Stratojet, and the KC-97 Stratofreighter have been retired from service. Only the B-52 Stratofortress remains actively in use.

Today, the Airmen from 97th AMW fly the KC-135 Stratotanker, C-17 Globemaster III and KC-46, training future pilots, loadmasters, and in-flight refuelers to extend global reach worldwide - a mission set for which Vienneau helped lay the foundation.

“Air refueling has become a key pillar to air mobility and provides America's strategic advantage,” said Pike. “Lt. Vienneau’s sacrifice contributes to our long legacy of adaptability and innovation that allows America to have a relevant and lethal force.”

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