It was twenty-seven years ago that Destin resident Brian Buege was called out of his middle school chemistry class to learn about a tragedy that would change his life forever.

On the 27th anniversary of the day his father's plane was shot down — killing the entire crew — Destin resident Brian Buege shared this recollection on Facebook, recounting how he learned the news as an 11-year-old boy and its impact on him then and now. Stationed at Hurlburt Field, Senior Master Sgt. Paul G. Buege was one of 14 crew members who died on Jan. 31, 1991. The family was living in Mary Esther at the time. Buege was survived by his wife, Theresa, son, Brian and daughter, Kristie. A memorial honoring those who died in the Spirit 03 crash is in Navarre Park.


This day 27 years ago I was sitting in chemistry class in middle school. Just about (9 a.m.) my guidance counselor entered the classroom and pulled my teacher to the side and was whispering in his ear, and he looks straight at me. Immediately my stomach turned because usually when they need you in the office they just call you on the intercom, or send a student aid, so for the counselor to come must have meant I was in big trouble. She told me to gather my things and to come with her. I wasn't coming back to class.

As we headed to the office she walked in front of me with her head held down, and I ask, "Am I in trouble or something?" She didn't even answer. I walk in the office and I immediately see my mother and her best friend sitting in the office. My mother had no makeup and barely looked as if she brushed her hair. For her to be like that something was definitely wrong, but I didn't know what. She asked me to sit on her lap and I was like, "Sit in your lap, are you crazy?? I am a big boy now," but respecting her wishes I took a seat on her leg and what came next seemed like a blur.

I just remember her saying go get everything out of your locker, I don't know if you will be coming back, and I ask why and she starts to fight back tears while saying, your dad's plane was shot down and they don't know where they are. I sobbed for a minute but at that age, I always believed everything can be fixed and it was going to be all right. While walking to my locker I kept thinking of what she said, and I couldn't convince myself it was true until I got home. I saw the blue military-issued vehicle, my grandparents, friends of my dad and mom, and other family members, I opened the front door and everyone turned with tears and somber faces and that is when it kicked in. This is real.

For weeks, it was constant calls of condolences, then it got to the point that the press were calling pretending to be family from Louisiana or friends of my dad from high school, just to see if they could get some information for a story. It got so bad the military ordered that we were not to answer the phone anymore and everything would need to go to an answering machine.

Weeks turned to months, and finally on March 6th, the night of my parents 20th anniversary, at around 9 p.m. the doorbell rang and I knew what it was, and I knew it wasn't good. But I felt if I didn't come out of my room it wasn't really happening, but when I heard my mothers screams, "NO NO NO," and her passing out, and my sister storming out the back door, I knew right then, my life was never going to be the same again. And I was right.

The grief of losing my father wasn't something that I was able to process easily. I wasn't the same little kid I was before. I was different, happiness was a rarity, and I still deal with it today. I talk to him a lot, because if I do, then I won't forget his voice. As years go by and I reach personal milestones that should be something I am happy about, but its actually the opposite, because he isn't here to celebrate it with me.

Today, 27 years after my life changed forever, I remember my dad and his fellow 13 crew members. They were ordinary men who did extraordinary things. Many in their early 30s, my dad the same age I am today. These men had a lot of life left to live, but rather took the oath to protect this country even if it meant they lose their life. Sadly, I feel like wars have gone on for so long now, people are numb to it. ...You hear an actor dies of an overdose and its all over the news, but when it comes to another soldier who has died, its almost barely mentioned.

Let us never forget that their lives remind us that freedom is not bought cheaply. For some it's everything.