Paying tribute to a fallen hero

Lake Oswego resident honor the memory - and raise money - of Maj. Gregory Young

Lake Oswego residents gathered to say 'thank you' to the late Maj. Gregory Young of the Oregon Air Guard on Aug. 9.

The event proved to be a most affirmative answer to organizer Jerri Ghiglieri's question, 'What can we do?'

'Maj. Young left a young wife and four small children,' Ghiglieri said. 'I wanted to know what could be done for those little bitty children.'

The result was a benefit that raised an estimated $8,000, with more money coming in, at the Lake Oswego estate of Mike Erickson. It was attended by an estimated 150 people, including representatives of the Marines, Army and Oregon Air Guard.

It was on June 26 when Young went down into the Pacific Ocean while on training maneuvers with the 142nd fighter wing of the Oregon Air Guard. The cause of the tragedy remains speculation, Ghiglieri said, but it came as a shock because of the Air Guard's 'awesome' safety record and the fact that Young was an extremely experienced pilot with 1,000 air hours.

'I got all of my buddies together,' said Ghiglieri, a long-time supporter of American military personnel. 'Things came together very quickly. It only took about three weeks.

'We wanted to celebrate his life and have a benefit, a donation benefit. People could give whatever they could afford, $10, $25, $50 or $100.'

Perhaps the most heartening aspect of the evening was the appearance of Young's widow, Tonya, who made her first public appearance since the funeral of her husband.

'I think she was very moved, happy and pleased,' Ghiglieri said. 'I was told that for the first time since his loss she was actually smiling.'

Special gifts were provided to Mrs. Young and the children, including two bridal dolls made by Rose Victor. Father Siriani of St. Henry's Church in Gresham gave the celebration of life.

In addition, Ghiglieri received outstanding support from local businesses, which were eager to give when they were informed of the cause.

'Everyone couldn't have been more helpful,' Ghiglieri said. 'It was good to know that Lake Oswego has warm appreciation for people like Maj. Young.'