- 26 years old
- Date of birth: Feb 7, 1986
- Date of passing: Feb 18, 2012
|Let the memory of Justin be with us forever|
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 Trainingin 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 receipt of which 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!"
To his family, 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.
Justin is survived by his parents, Jim and Sharon Wilkens, his older sister, Brittany and her husband, Nathan Betts, his younger sister, Cameron, and younger brother, Jason, as well as his grandparents, Bob and Donna Wilkens and Walt and Jane Miller, and his unborn niece or nephew, expected in June.
Justin is predeceased by his friend, Josh Keeley, and his much loved black Labrador, "Buddy," both in 2006.
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