By Ray Bowden
U.S. Air Force Academy Public Affairs
U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. — The funeral service for Maj. Phyllis Pelky, an Air Force Academy major who died in a helicopter accident in Afghanistan, took place Oct. 26 at the Cadet Chapel.
Chaplain (Capt.) Don Romero, led the Catholic Mass of the Resurrection and Rite of Committal for Pelky.
“Did you see the snow on Pikes Peak this morning?” he asked the audience of family members, Airmen and cadets attending the service. “The snow is a beautiful tribute to a beautiful woman.”
At the service, Academy Superintendent Lt. Gen. Michelle Johnson spoke about the officer who, until her deployment to Afghanistan, served as her aide-de-camp.
“Phyllis was courageous,” Johnson said. “Her inner strength resonated throughout her story. Over the days since we lost her, stories of her kind impact are pouring in from people touched by her positive spirit.”
Brig. Gen. Andrew Armacost, the Academy’s dean of the faculty, also spoke at the funeral.
“Her commitment to General Johnson, to this entire institution and to her friends in the Foreign Language Department, was simply unmatched,” he said. “Phyllis and her amazing contributions to our Academy and to our faculty will endure. It is our job to ensure her legacy remains here forever.”
Pelky was born in Evergreen Park, Illinois, Feb. 13, 1970, to parents George and Dale Berlin. She earned a bachelor’s in education from the University of New Mexico and taught German language and humanities at Rio Rancho High School in Rio Rancho, New Mexico.
The Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the U.S. motivated Pelky to apply to Officer Training School, said Dave Pelky, Pelky’s husband of 25 years.
She earned her commission as a second lieutenant in June 2004 and began her military career a force support officer at Kadena Air Force Base, Japan.
Pelky earned a master’s degree at McGill University, Montreal, Canada. She served at the Academy as a German-language instructor and later became aide-de-camp to the superintendent.
Pelky, 45 was one of five killed and five injured aboard a British Helicopter that crashed Oct. 11 near Kabul, Afghanistan. During her deployment to the 438th Air Expeditionary Wing, Afghanistan, she managed personnel-support teams for hundreds of service members and civilians and local gender integration efforts for the Afghan air force.
According to Associated Press reports, an Afghan security guard reportedly witnessed the crash and told the AP the helicopter may have hit an untethered observation balloon while landing. The Defense of Department has not released the official cause of the accident.
Pelky is also survived by sons Zach and Alex and six siblings.
She was interred at the Academy Cemetery after the Mass.