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Fallen Air Commando honored by hometown dedication

A memorial sign dedicated to Maj. Andrew Becker, a fallen Air Commando from the Demise 25 crash, sits on the side of U.S. Route 23 north of his hometown of Novi, Michigan., Sept. 2, 2018. A total of two signs were dedicated in his name on the highway 240 miles north of Novi, an area where his family has been going for over 60 years. (Courtesy photo)

A memorial bench dedicated to Maj. Andrew Becker, a fallen Air Commando from the Demise 25 crash, sits at the city hall of his hometown of Novi, Mich., Sept. 16, 2017. The bench was one of two dedications in Becker's home state, the other being a two-mile stretch of highway north of his hometown. (Courtesy photo)

CANNON AIR FORCE BASE, New Mexico --

One of the fallen crew members of Demise 25, a U-28A aircraft assigned to the 318th Special Operations Squadron that crashed March 14, 2017, has recently been honored near his hometown through a dedication made in his name.

Maj. Andrew Becker, also known as Andy and the lead pilot of Demise 25, had his name dedicated to a two-mile stretch of road on U.S. Route 23 approximately 240 miles north of his hometown of Novi, Michigan.

 “The reason this highway area was chosen was because our family has been going to this area for over 60 years,” said Gary Becker, Andy’s father. “It was a favorite area for Andy and all of us.”

Two signs on the highway, one facing north and one facing south, display the words ‘Major Andrew Becker Memorial Highway.’ The dedication was enacted by the State of Michigan with some help of Andy’s family members.

“It was through the extraordinary efforts of my sister that this highway dedication came to fruition,” Gary said.  “She went through our state representative, who took her to testify in front of a state house and Senate Committee.”

Dr. Cristie Becker, Andy’s aunt, completed all this so that the bill was written, passed and signed by the Governor in time for this past Memorial Day. The signs were put up however, the efforts and actualization of this dedication were unbeknownst to Andy’s widow, Shelly Becker.

“We unveiled the signs as a surprise to Shelly over this past Labor Day weekend,” Gary said. “We drove her to where they were and then stopped to walk her up to them. Now, every time we go into the nearby town, we see the signs and it is a nice, little reminder.”

Prior to the dedication from the state, Andy’s hometown of Novi also came together to recognize Andy’s ultimate sacrifice. Last year, Novi established a memorial grounds at its city hall which included a planting of a tree and a memorial bench inscribed ‘Andy’s Bench’ to go along with a pair of boots.

The effort to create this memorial, including the funding, was done by Bob Gatt, the Mayor of Novi. Gatt, along with 318th SOS leadership, spoke during a ceremony Sept. 16, 2017, unveiling the site dedicated to Andy. More than 200 people were in attendance of the gathering.  

“We are here today to pay tribute to one of Novi’s own,” Gatt said while addressing the audience. “He was a cherished husband, son, brother, uncle, nephew, cousin, comrade, and friend. He is one who gave all for our country.”

Lt. Col. David Erpelding, 318th SOS commander, followed up with thoughts on the significance of Andy’s life and the dedication of the site.

“Mayor Gatt, thank you for nailing the creations of this memorial that will serve as reminder of what it means to pay the ultimate sacrifice,” Erpelding said. “This is a place where people can stop, contemplate and be reminded of their hometown hero who served honorably, all the while keeping God, family and his country close to heart.”

Through these two dedications and other numerous gestures, Gary says the support from the hometown and the Air Force over the last 19 months since the crash has been incredibly thoughtful and helpful to the Becker family.

“Andy was always proud to say he was a Michigan and Novi native,” Gary said. “He always loved being able to come home whenever possible.  Now, the state and city of his birth have established permanent memorials, and Andy will always be ‘home’.”