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A Maritime Tribute to a Warrior and a Friend

by Dick Brauer
Colonel, USAF (Ret)

Richard A. Dutton

At noon on Thursday, December 16, 1999, the Hurlburt Field Chapel was filled to capacity with the family, friends and compatriots of a fallen hero, Colonel Richard A. "Dick" Dutton who passed away on Sunday, December 12, 1999.

Yes, Dick Dutton was indeed a hero and a friend for me and for so many others. Those that attended the Memorial Service in Dick's honor know only too well how moving and appropriate a ceremony it was and how much he was loved and respected by so many people. What he gave of himself for his country as a career Air Force officer, a Prisoner-of War, an educator and a humanitarian has been acknowledged by so many, I will not repeat those words again here, only because I could not say it any better.

Following the service inside the Chapel, the attendees moved to the Hurlburt Airpark for a military honors ceremony and an F-15 fly-by performed by Dick's former squadron, the 333rd Fighter Squadron, from Seymour-Johnson A.F.B. North Carolina.  Even as a former aviator, I could not help but feel chills run from my neck to the base of my spine as the flight of four F-15 Eagles arrived directly above the Airpark and one suddenly broke from the formation and streaked vertically toward the heavens in full afterburner. At that moment I knew that Colonel Dick Dutton, similarly "broke the surly bonds" of earth and was truly in the cockpit of that Eagle jet in spirit, with firm and steady hands on the throttles and the stick. That solo "Eagle driver" may not have known it but he was not alone. Dick was flying that fighter!

What a few of us experienced later that afternoon, is really what I wish to tell you about in this article. For you see the Chapel and Airpark Memorial Services, as moving as they were, did not mark the finale of the tribute by his family and his friends to Colonel Dick Dutton. Some of us were privileged to participate in a maritime ceremony just outside the Destin East Pass, on our emerald green waters during the waning afternoon hours on Thursday. It was Dick's wish that his ashes be scattered from the stern of his boat, "Fish Tale", upon the ocean that he loved so dearly. As a conservationist, Dick both preached and practiced the Catch and Release method as an active member of the Fort Walton Beach Sailfish Club, where he served as treasurer for many years.

The idea for a flotilla of boats to accompany Dick's wife Jean and her family in their boat was conceived and organized by Colonel "Woody" Kimsey, USAF (Ret), also a member of the club, a friend and a neighbor.  Earlier in the day I had been honored to be asked to be a member of Woody's "crew". Eight of us, to include active duty and retired officers who had served with Dick, boarded Woody's 32 ft Sport Fisherman, the Pastime II, at Ben's Lake Marina and motored to the rendezvous point in the vicinity of the Fort Walton Beach Yacht Club and Shalimar bridge. By about 3:30 PM, seven boats had arrived and after some brief radio chatter for coordination, our "flotilla" departed for the Destin East Pass in line astern formation.

As he had blessed our nation by giving us Dick Dutton, God smiled upon this event as well, for the water was calm, the weather was cool and the ocean was clear. As I stood on the flying bridge of the Pastime II, I felt totally at peace with the world, enjoying the cool sea air, the serenity of the setting sun and the conversation and "war stories" with my friends. As we approached the Destin Bridge and slowed to idle speed in the channel, yet another three boats, berthed in Destin, joined onto the tail end our formation, bringing our total to ten. Including Dick's boat (Fish Tale), and Woody's Pastime II, our "funeral fleet" (all sport fisherman) consisted of Jus Jukin', Full Pull, Bottom Line, Aquaholic, Big Blue, Misty, Voyager and (very appropriate for the occasion)…High Flight.

I could not help but wonder if a funeral procession of gleaming white boats such as these had ever passed beneath the Destin Bridge anytime in the past in honor of a fallen hero. After proceeding through the Pass the formation broke up and slowed to a stop, circling the Fish Tale. At precisely 1600 hours (4:00PM) the Fisherman's Prayer was recited for all to hear and Dick's wish was fulfilled and his ashes scattered upon the waves by his family.

As our lives were truly enriched by Dick Dutton, the ocean is now also that much richer by his presence. As our "formation" broke up and we headed back to safe harbor, my friends and I on board the Pastime II raised our glasses in salute and said goodbye to our fellow Warrior…Colonel Dick Dutton…Godspeed, fly high and good fishing.

"Bravo Zulu" my friend…(Navy parlance for Well Done!)

For information regarding Richard's genealogy file that he hosted at RootsWeb,  Click Here for more information.

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