BEND, OR, US
U.S. Air Force
1ST LT, 34TH SPECIAL OPERATIONS SQD, HURLBURT FIELD, FL
02/18/2012, DJIBOUTI, DJ
First Lieutenant Justin James Wilkens, aged 26, passed away on February 18, 2012, when his U-28 aircraft went down in Djibouti, Africa, where he was serving his third deployment with the US Air Force 34th Special Operations Squadron.
Justin was born, the second of four children, to Jim and Sharon Wilkens in Bend, Oregon, on February 7, 1986. His passion for flying was evident from an early age. He obtained his glider license at age 14 and his Pilot License at age 16. He entered the Air Force Academy in 2005 and graduated, receiving his commission in 2009. He completed his Combat Systems Officer Training in Randolph, Texas, in 2010, graduating with “Excellence” in the top third of his class. He received his U-28A Combat Systems Officer Training at Hurlburt Field, Florida, finishing in 2011 with the Spirit 03 Superior Performer Award. the This award qualified him to compete for Distinguished Graduate of 2011 – U-28 Combat Systems Officer, which he was awarded on January 12, 2012.
Justin joined the Air Force because he loved his country, he loved to fly, and he wanted to live with courage to fight for the good and defend those needing protection. He had soberly considered the possible necessity of giving his life for these principles and it was a price he was willing to pay. His conviction was evident in the excellence with which he did his work.
His last performance report reads, “Outstanding junior officer/aviator who always produces top-notch results executing global special ops missions. Enthusiastic, combat-proven aviator making immediate impact in combat. Aircraft systems “guru.” Gifted Ambassador with key U.S. Allies. Most Valuable Player!”
He was home schooled and started to attend college at a local college before going off to the Academy. Justin and I got engaged Feb 13,2012 and he left for deployment on Feb 14, 2012. Justin will be remembered for his infectious laugh, his eyes brimming with fun, his warm heart and his hard, tight bear hugs. He was excited to be alive and he lived with joy in the present moment. He made any situation fun and he leaves behind him many memories of rendering us helpless with laughter at his stories. He was affectionate and loving to his family and friends, sacrificially generous and loyal. My favorite memory of him will always be his closing speech, since he was always deployed and always gone somewhere we became very close talking on the phone or on skype. Every time we got off he’d always give me a closing speech where he would summarize his phone calls and it was what I always looked forward to and would always laugh at him when he did it. I also have another memory. Every day he wrote me little notes on sticky notes and hid them either in my purse or book bag or in my medical bag so that I could always find them throughout my day. They always made me smile, and every time he would deploy he would always write me enough to get me through the deployment and none of the notes ever repeated themselves.