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Daniel Cruz

Daniel J. “Clyde” Cruz Passed away April 26th, 2016 at the age of 37.

“Dan was very active in high school. He played soccer, served on Student Council, active in the National Junior Honor Society and had graduated in the top 5% of his class. He knew he had to work extremely hard in order to get a congressional nomination into the U.S. Air Force Military Academy in which he succeeded. He then graduated from the academy with a Degree in Engineering and became a 2nd Lieutenant.

Ever since Dan was little, he wanted to be a military pilot, and serving in the Air Force enabled him to pursue his dreams. His exceptional skills as a pilot would make him specially selected to fly the A-10 Thunderbolt II, aka “Warthog”. His dream had finally come true.

Dan was deployed 3 times to Afghanistan. On his first deployment, he was sent in on foot with the Army as a Battalion Air Liaison Officer where he received the Bronze Star. His second deployment made history. Dan (known to airmen as “Clyde”, his call sign), and his squadron, the 354th fighter squadron “Bulldogs” flew over 1,700 combat missions totaling more than 6,000 combat hours. It was on his third deployment that he received the Distinguished Flying Cross with Combat Valor (one of the Air Force’s highest honors) for heroism. On August 21, 2007, Captain Cruz’s airmanship and courage displayed under hazardous conditions culminated in an extremely successful Operation ENDURING FREEDOM mission.

It was said his heart was so big that he was haunted by the horrors of war and could never quite come to terms with it. In April of 2016, Dan passed away at his home from complications of seizures and PTSD. He was buried with full military honors including the Missing Man Formation fly by.

Hundreds of loved ones lined up to say goodbye at both of his memorials. Dan will be remembered by many as a true American Hero who made history and saved countless lives by risking his own. His accomplishments have been documented in many news articles and a book is currently being written on his flying missions.

For those close to him, Dan will be remembered for his infectious smile, laugh, sense of humor, and his crazy love for Superman and Chewbacca. It was said at one of his memorials that Daniel himself was Superman to a lot of people who would not be here today if it were not for him.” Shared by his sister, Mandy

“The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, July 2, 1926, takes pleasure in presenting the Distinguished Flying Cross with Combat “V” to Captain Daniel J. Cruz, United States Air Force, for heroism while participating in aerial flight as an HAWG-17 Flight Lead near Khowst, Afghanistan on 21 August 2007. On that date, Captain Cruz’s airmanship and courage displayed under hazardous conditions culminated in an extremely successful Operation ENDURING FREEDOM mission. While airborne, Captain Cruz was diverted to support a combined United States and Afghan National Army outpost that had been overrun by 40 anti-Coalition troops. Friendly forces were driven from their outpost and under attack from small arms fire and rocket-propelled grenades. They had already suffered 12 casualties and one fatality. With no Joint Terminal Attack Controller available, Captain Cruz was forced to use emergency close air support procedures, working directly with Chosin Six, the on-scene ground commander, while flying in mountainous terrain under constant small arms fire. Chosin Six informed the flight that they were pinned down by the enemy who was within 50 meters, and that all attacks would be inside “danger close” criteria. Captain Cruz marked the target with a 30 millimeter from low-angle deliveries and pressing as close as possible to the enemy in order to reduce the risk to friendly forces. Their formation killed five confirmed enemy combatants including a high-ranking Taliban commander, forcing them to break contact and retreat into the nearby mountains ending the battle. The outstanding heroism and selfless devotion to duty displayed by Captain Cruz reflect great credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.”

Hometown: Glendale, AZ
Final Rest: United States Air Force Academy Cemetery Colorado Springs, CO

Distinguished Flying Cross with Combat “V”

Missing Man Formation:

Memorial Video:

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