Moline man fulfills solemn promise to fallen pilot’s family

MOLINE -

Friendship comes full circle in the air over Moline.

"Bittersweet," sighed Laura Moynihan,  on Friday, June 23.

On a day bright for flight, Air Force A-10's offer a salute from the sky.

"First time you've seen it, dear?" asked Brad Baltzell, Moline,  to Lauren Moynihan, 17.

These are the same planes flown by Major Mark "Elvis" Moynihan in Bosnia. A mission that inspired a solemn promise.

"He asked if anything happened in Bosnia to make sure his daughter's education was taken care of," recalled Baltzell.

While Major Moynihan survived Bosnian strife, he was killed in 2000 during a stateside mission.

Lauren was just two weeks old at the time.

On Friday, Lauren and her mom stepped outside at Elliott Aviation to watch the three planes arrive from Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri.

"She really didn't know her father," Laura said.  "So for her to see that this was a big part of his life and a passion, it was awesome."

Some promises fade with time.  Not this one.  As Lauren climbs aboard the plane, it's all very real.

"I'm so happy," she said.  "It's really amazing."

She was sitting in the cockpit and taking it all in.  It was a time to connect with her father, his service and sacrifice.

"This means everything to me," she said.

Down on the ground, Laura was capturing the moment with her cell phone.

"It's neat that she can get in there, and see what it's all about," she continued. "Hopefully, she feels his presence.  I'm sure he's watching over her."

Baltzell, who got to know the major from various air shows, is serious about their pact.

After investing cash over the past 17 years, he presented Lauren with $55,000.  That will fuel her plans to study at the University of Tennessee to become a pediatric nurse.

"I just had to do it," Baltzell said.  "You've got to follow through."

Baltzell also follows through with daily phone calls.  He's become like a kind and generous uncle.

"He's such a close friend," Lauren said.  "He's stuck with us all through the years.  It's amazing."

A promise for life that sends a powerful message about Baltzell and the Air Force.

"It's a big brotherhood," Laura concluded.  "It's a big family.  Even  though (Mark) isn't here, we're still part of that family, and they always make us feel that way."

A two-decade old promise that's still reaching for the sky and soaring with love.