Hero US Navy pilot laid to rest in Sarasota

U.S. Navy handout

SARASOTA, Fla. (WFLA) – Family and friends from around the world came to Sarasota National Cemetery to pay their final respects to a Navy hero.

Navy Lt. Steven Combs, 28, was one of three men killed in November when the aircraft he was piloting crashed into the Phillippine Sea.

According to the Stars and Stripes, the plane was headed toward the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan when it started experiencing engine failure.  Combs was forced to make an emergency landing and bravely piloted the plane into stormy 10-foot ocean swells.

Thanks to his heroism, eight lives were saved.

Sadly, the bodies of Lt. Combs, Seaman Matthew Chialastri, and Seaman Apprentice Bryan Grosso were not recovered during a three-day search.

“Lt. Combs’ co-pilot was effusive in his praise. He said, ‘He flew the hell out of that plane,’” Navy Cmdr. Ronald Flanders, a spokesman for Naval Air Forces, told Stars and Stripes. “It was heroic. A remarkable piece of flying that was instrumental in saving eight lives.”

“We are just so so proud of him. Even though he couldn’t come home, he made it so eight others could. That’s really the only way we are getting through this,” Lt. Comb’s sister- Elizabeth Combs told News Channel 8 in November.

Combs’ father Steven Combs, Sr. said at the funeral on Saturday that his son would never consider himself a hero.

“I think what he would tell you is that he was doing his job to the best of his ability. He would laugh if someone called him a hero, and say, ‘That’s kinda, not me, I’m just a Navy pilot doing my job,” said Combs Sr.

Four C-2 Greyhounds flew over the service in a missing man formation. Navy officials say Combs was one of the US Navy’s best Greyhound pilots.

The Navy is expected to present Combs with a posthumous honor. His family has also established a scholarship fund in his memory.

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