Family speaks about airman's death

SANFORD Reverend Gilbert McDowell said his grandson was due to come home in six weeks.

Before he deployed in April, Rev. McDowell said his grandson truly believed God called him to be a pilot.

"He did not have to be in that plane, but he was there because he wanted to do that," Rev. McDowell said. "I broke down. Why? What happened? He is too young."

Mark McDowell was piloting an Air Force F15 E Strike Eagle when it crashed in Afghanistan Friday. Another crew member Capt. Thomas Gramith also died.

Click here to read more about the crash

Mark McDowell grew up in Charlotte. He met his wife Katie while both were at the Air Force Academy. She deployed to Iraq when he went Afghanistan.

Rev. McDowell said his grandson loved to fly, but knew that death was a part of war.

"He said 'Granddaddy the only thing that bothers me is that I know every time I shoot that missile somebody is going to die'," he said.

As a Baptist minister, Rev McDowell said he has conducted numerous funerals of service members killed in war. He said he now clings to his faith, knowing his grandson loved God and his country.

"I believe he was born to fly and I believe God called him to be a pilot," he said. "My prayer now is that the other grandchildren will look to him and live the same life he lived."

Rev. McDowell said the family still didn't know what caused the crash.

He said his grandson would be buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

His funeral will be held in about six weeks when his unit returns to Seymour Johnson Air Base.

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