2015 Live Like Luc Climbathon

Happy New Year! Hope it’s been a good start.

Unfortunately, it’s actually a bitter-sweet time of year for some. A New Year to count your blessings, set new goals and forget past regrets; but for those who have had some big losses, it can also be hard. For Luc’s family and, those who new Luc, it is nearing the two year anniversary of when we lost one of our finest. However, we know that he would want us to turn even that upside down to make the best of it. To do that, we are excited to announce the 2015 Live Like Luc Climbathon in Red Rocks, NV. The fundraiser, to culminate with as much climbing as possible on 7 March, is a great way to show Luc’s family we care and give to those who could use a hand of encouragement to better themselves, their community, our country and, ultimately, humankind. Luc would be happy to know that his shining example helped make that happen. Please consider giving and supporting a great cause. See details at the link below, feel free to share and watch for updates.


Luc Climbing

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2014 Magredi Mountain Trail Run

On 3 Oct “Bama” Sweeney, Holley Sweeney, “Dok” Hertzel and a relay team from Aviano departed Vivaro, Italy on a 100mi journey on foot through some of the most beautiful mountains in Northern Italy. The 100mi race would take them 33-37hrs running day and night through very steep and rugged terrain. Last year Bama and Holley ran the race with two relay teams in honor of Luc and finished the race with Cassy, Serene, and a bunch of friends from the local community. This year’s course was much more difficult than last year because an extra mountain was added in the middle of the run which added a little over 6,000 feet making the total elevation gain a little over 25,000 feet! The race director, Max Bello, wanted to dedicate the race again this year to Luc. Just like last year there was a toast to Luc 15min before the race. There was a banner that was hung in the center of Maniago that said “Intermediate finish line in honor of Lucas Gruenther.” It was very moving running through Maniago and under the banner. The race director was there in Maniago to pay tribute to Luc and also to check the teams’ progress.

This year there were over two times as many athletes that signed up for the race making up over 170 total participants. It felt almost like Luc joined the relay team in Maniago and pulled them through the last half of the race which had two very tough climbs. Dan Baker and his friend Mike joined the team in Maniago for one of the steep climbs. The majority of the participants lost steam during the second half of the race and dropped out of the race. In the end over half of the racers did not finish, but the participants from Aviano pressed on and finished strong! During the last leg of the relay the team grew 14 strong and ran to the finish line! Just like last year numerous people set personal records for running distance.

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Salinas Air Show Thunderbird Performance to be dedicated to Gaza

Mark your calendars! This year at the Salinas Air Show (September 27 & 28)  the Thunderbirds, the Air Force’s Premier Jet Demonstration Team will be dedicating their performance to Major Lucas “GAZA” Gruenther through their Fallen Warrior Program.

Click on the link below to find out more information about the Salinas Air Show and the Air Force Thunderbirds.
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First Scholarship Awarded

Luc’s legacy lives on through the first recipient of the Lucas Gruenther Memorial fund, Summerville High School graduate Morgan Murry.  This first scholarship was open to graduating seniors at Summerville High School, Luc’s alma mater.  Applicants submitted a 2-8 minute video that captured their spirit and ambition for life and that also depicted how they plan to use this award to help them “Live Like Luc”.  Ms. Murry received a scholarship in the amount of $2222.22.


Scholarship winner Morgan Murry with Cassy & Serene

Scholarship winner Morgan Murry with Cassy & Serene

Morgan plans to attend the California Maritime Academy and through her application video it was apparent she emulates Luc’s spirit and tenacity for life.  Congrats Morgan, and best of luck!!!  Watch her video below.



Read Morgan’s excitement about receiving the award below:

“Hi, my name is Morgan Murry and I am a graduating senior at Summerville High. This week I was thrilled and extremely humbled to be awarded the 2014 Lucas Gruenther Memorial Scholarship. I know that so many people both young and old, family, friends, fellow service members, and even complete strangers have poured out their hearts to make this scholarshippossible, as a tribute to an absolutely amazing person. Lucas Gruenther was a loving person, awesome pilot, adventurous at heart, and completely dedicated to being all that he could be. Luc lived an amazing life, and his adventures were not limited to the F-16’s he flew.

I was one of the students who had the chance to sit in the Summerville High Auditorium and listen to Luc when he give an incredibly motivating talk after he had just returned from Afghanistan; Luc encouraged us to live like champions, and I hope to do that.

As part of the scholarship process we created videos that shared our character, spirit, and tenacity for life, along with our future plans. I wanted to participate in this chance to honor Luc, and say that he was an inspiration to many Summerville students like me. The video was also a chance for me to look back at my life, look ahead at my future and focus on being a champion like Luc was. Here is a copy of the short video I submitted.

This challenge to live like Luc is something that I cannot complete alone, but like a runner in a relay race I plan to do my part. I am excited to be headed to the California Maritime Academy this fall, where I will study Marine Transportation, and plan to earn my USCG Deck Officer ratings allowing me to pilot super tankers and other large vessels across the world’s oceans. This scholarship will be VERY helpful towards that goal, and I want to say – THANK YOU!

Luc Gruenther lived an amazing life, and I hope to do the same. Thanks again for assisting me to pursue my dreams and for the privilege to honor a great man. My family and I send our deepest appreciation and respect to Luc’s family, friends, and fellow adventure seekers. Luc will be remembered.

With deepest respect and gratitude,
Morgan Murry
Senior Summerville High Class of 2014″
Morgan Murry
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First Annual Memorial Fun Run

The first annual memorial fun run will take place on March 29, 2014 at Tuolumne Memorial Park.  For all the details and registration instructions check out the Memorial Fun Run tab.


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Kyle Westmoreland Wins Patriot All-America Invitational

Source: http://www.goairforcefalcons.com/sports/m-golf/spec-rel/123113aaa.html

December 31, 2013

Kyle Westmoreland won the Patiot All-America Invitational Tuesday

Air Force senior Kyle Westmoreland made the most of his holiday break by winning the prestigious Patriot All-America Golf Invitational on the Gold Course at The Wigwam in Litchfield Park, Ariz. Westmoreland, one of 84 participants in the tournament, defeated University of Texas senior Toni Hakula on the sixth playoff hole after each finished 54 holes with a five-under par total of 205.

Westmoreland, who led by one shot after the second round, fired a one-under par 69 in the final round Tuesday and birdied the 18th hole to force the playoff. Hakula, who birdied the final two holes of regulation play to get to -5, is the eighth-ranked amateur golfer in the world according to GolfWeek Magazine and was the runner-up at the 2013 British Amateur Championships earlier this year.

“I can’t say enough about Kyle,” said Air Force head coach George Koury. “Chris (Wilson, AFA assistant coach) and I are very proud of him. His accomplishments on the course are amazing, but the way he represents the Academy on a daily basis is unmatched. This is by far the biggest win in the history of our program.”

In cooperation with the Folds of Honor Foundation, each participant in the tournament represents a fallen service member. Westmoreland is representing Air Force Major Lucas Gruenther, an F-16 pilot stationed at Aviano Air Force Base and a 2003 graduate of the Air Force Academy, who was killed on Jan. 28, 2013 during a training mission over the Adriatic Ocean in Italy. Gruenther was a team manager for the golf team all four years at the Academy.

For more information, including final results, please visit The Patriot All-America tournament website.

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San Diego Tough Mudder Team Raises Money for LGMF this Weekend

Several  F-16 Viper pilots and spouses will attempt a Tough Mudder in San Diego this coming weekend (Ray, Corby, Slick Mickus, Lobo Canfield, Eva Canfield, Rocko Ilchena, Jinx Anderson, Joker Dudley, Burnin Helton, and Moose Kjelsgaard). The team is raising donations for the Lucas Gruenther Memorial Fund ,which will be used for scholarships for young people who emulate the same love for life and adventurous spirit that he did.  They have a goal of $1000, and are nearly half way there.
Please consider a donation to remember an amazing husband, pilot, and friend who leaves behind a legacy of inspiring people to branch out and try new things. And support them as they run 12 miles of obstacles (electrocution, scaling walls, and freezing temps) to get their butts kicked in Luc’s name… ;)
www.youcaring.com/livelikeluctoughmudder (Donations go directly to the Lucas Gruenther Memorial Fund)
More on the Tough Mudder:
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Fighter crash report final

Written by Mike Morris, The Union Democrat October 29, 2013 04:09 pm

The U.S. Air Force this week released a report on the January jet crash that killed Maj. Lucas Gruenther, a Tuolumne County native.Gruenther died during ejection from the F-16 he was flying on a nighttime training exercise over the Adriatic Sea, off the coast of Italy, on Jan. 28. He became “spatially disoriented” due at least partially to poor weather conditions, the use of night-vision goggles, and the plane’s high rate of speed, the 52-page U.S. Air Force Aircraft Accident Investigation Board Report says.

“This led (Gruenther) to misjudge the imminent need to eject,” the report says.

Gruenther suffered fatal head and neck trauma during the high-speed ejection.

Lucas’ brother, Alex Gruenther, who is a computer engineer with the Air Force, said the plane was traveling 655 mph with extreme winds. His brother’s seat twisted and his helmet came off during the ejection, he said.

The plane was destroyed upon impact, according to the report.

Alex Gruenther said the report needs to be taken in context. He believes his brother “did everything right” given the circumstances.

“We’re talking a split-second decision in life and death. You just have to put yourself in the cockpit — you’re going down 1,000 feet a second, pulling 8 G’s, warning lights and audible alarms are going off,” he said by phone Monday from Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio.

Lucas Gruenther, 32, who grew up in Twain Harte, was stationed at Aviano Air Force Base in northeastern Italy.

His wife and Summerville High School sweetheart, Cassy, gave birth to their daughter, Serene, 10 days after the accident.

Cassy Gruenther and 8-month-old Serene moved back to Tuolumne County from Italy this month.

“It’s been really hard, but the blessing is that she’s a part of him,” Cassy Gruenther said Monday — exactly nine months after the accident.

Cassy Gruenther said transcripts of radio calls the night of the accident show Gruenther expressed concern about the weather multiple times.

“It’s hard, because I just feel they shouldn’t have been out there to begin with,” she said.

She said her late husband was a responsible pilot who “never pushed the limits” with weather or safety.

“I think the most important thing for me is to know Luc did everything he was supposed to do — everything he humanly could,” she said.

Memorial services were held earlier this year at Summerville High and Gruenther’s Italian air base along with a funeral service with full military honors at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado.



Contact Mike Morris at mmorris@uniondemocrat.com or 588-4585.

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100 Miles of Memories

Last weekend over 120 American and Italian supporters took part in the 100-mile Magredi Mountain Trail Run in honor of Lucas.  We would like to thank all the supporters at the run to honor Lucas in this way.  We miss him every day.  The following article about the run was posted at the Aviano AB website.

MMT100by 2nd. Lt Allie Delury
31st Fighter Wing Public Affairs
10/8/2013 – AVIANO AIR BASE, ITALY — With less than five minutes until the start of the race, a pilot from the 555th Fighter Squadron and his wife began warming up and eyeing the 100-mile journey that laid before them.

He briefly adjusted the memorial bracelet on his arm, silently paying tribute to a friend who would not be able to join them.

“Gaza loved the outdoors,” said Captain Kevin Sweeney, 31st Operations Support Squadron Weapons and Tactics Flight Commander. “He would never turn down a challenge; he would always at least try to do it.”

Sweeney and his wife, Holley, were among 120 Americans and Italians who participated in the Magredi 100-mile Ultra Trail Run in honor of Major Lucas ‘Gaza’ Gruenther, an F-16 pilot who lost his life January 28 during a training mission at Aviano Air Base The race began at 6 p.m. on Oct. 4 and went through various local communes including: Vivaro, Montereale Valcellina, Fanna, and Meduno.

A banner in honor of Gruenther was held at the forty-one-mile mark in the town of Maniago, where Gruenther lived, to pay tribute to the pilot’s participation in last year’s 40-mile race.

“After Luc’s crash, some local Italians came to us and said: ‘Hey we want to dedicate this next race to Luc,'” said Sweeney. “The Italians were really touched because Luc was really fluent and really involved in the Italian community.”

Gruenther took after his grandfather, Bob Mathias, who was an American decathlete and two-time Olympic gold medalist. After arriving at Aviano Air Base, Gruenther started to increase the amount of trail running he did, and eventually participated in his first ultra-marathon in 2012: the Magredi 40-mile Ultra Trail Run. Once he finished, he set a new goal for the following year’s race.

“He had heard about this run and he had it on the calendar,” said Gruenther’s wife, Cassy. “He was like, ‘I want to do this run; I want to do 100 miles.”

On January 28, Gruenther lost contact with Aviano Air Base during a nighttime training mission when his F-16 crashed into the Adriatic Sea. His body was found January 31 after days of a combined U.S. and Italian search and rescue effort.

Following the accident, both squadrons and other organizations on base came together to help support the Gruenther family. Donations from around the world came to Aviano, along with countless stories of how Lucas Gruenther had impacted the lives of people he had met throughout his life.

In the spring of 2013, the Sweeney’s began training for the Magredi 100-mile Ultra Trail Run and started coordinating a 10-person 100 mile relay to help the fighter squadrons get involved in running it. Cassy ran the last leg of the race and crossed the finish line with her daughter, Serene, who was born eight days after Gruenther’s body was found.

“[‘Gaza’] definitely touched a lot of people’s hearts,” said Holley. “I know a lot of people run, but this is a different level of running. Some people doing this relay would never do it if it weren’t for him.”

Pilots, spouses, and others who knew Gruenther each took different shifts throughout the race to complete the relay, while the Sweeney’s committed to the 100-mile trek. Despite inclement weather, runners trudged onward through mountainous terrain and frigid temperatures, motivated by Gruenther’s wish to do the same.

“Many people who were involved in the crash are already gone, but his memory needs to live on,” said Sweeney. “That’s one thing that I take as a personal responsibility: getting the word out on how good of a guy he was and not letting him be forgotten.”

Running to Remember

On January 29, before news of a missing pilot had reached Maniago, Dr. Andrea Carli sat in his office watching the clock.

“The next morning after the accident, Lucas and I had an appointment at the municipal building and he didn’t show up,” said Carli, Mayor of Maniago. “He had a lot of ideas for projects and activities to integrate the Americans into the Maniago community.”

Despite the contrasting cultures, Gruenther and Carli spoke the same language when it came to long-distance running. Prior to the accident, he and Gruenther had planned to run a marathon together in Vienna, Austria.

“When you’re’ running you think about a lot of things,” said Cali. “You have a lot of time to think about a person, a situation, and during that marathon I thought about Lucas many, many times.”

As a way to commemorate Gruenther nearly 8 months after his accident, a large banner with the words “In Memory of Lucas Gruenther” was displayed in the city center, serving as a subtle reminder for runners to continue moving forward. Maniago marked the near-halfway point during the race: a pivotal moment for all runners, regardless of nationality, experience, their relationship to Gruenther.

“Like life, any goal you have long-range requires smaller goals,” said Carli. “I love running, and I think that running is a metaphor for life: the fatigue, the mental and physical healing, everything.

Sweeney and Holley passed the memorial banner Oct 6. at around 5 a.m.

“I actually got a little teary-eyed,” said Sweeney. “It was pretty emotional going through Gaza’s hometown. Seeing the squadron patch on there was pretty awesome, pretty moving.”

After entering Maniago, the two runners dedicated a moment to Gruenther, a silent thought distracting them from the physical pain of the race.

“I don’t think about the night he died, I think about how much he loved the outdoors, how much he would have loved to be running with us,” said Sweeney.

And so they continued on, inspired by memories, motivated by a familiar presence to keep going.

The Home Stretch

Nearly 24 hours after the start of the race, bystanders returned to the community of Vivaro Oct. 5 to welcome the runners completing the 100-mile course. Carli, alongside other municipality members, awarded the top three finishers before giving a personal tribute to Gruenther.

“Lucas Gruenther was a person who knew the meaning of the word ‘friendship’ and had a deep passion for running and the outdoors,” he said. “We will remember Luc anytime we run.”

Hours later, Cassy Gruenther began the final 10-mile stretch of the 10-person, 100-mile relay.

“You suffered a little, it was hard, but you were proud of yourself for finishing and you will never forget that experience…and that was the way he lived,” said Cassy. “Even if I got a little tired, I know he’s with me and I know I can do it for him. The fact that he brought all these people together for this event–that motivated me.”

Finishing the race alongside Cassy were the Sweeney’s, who had ran roughly 36 hours to complete the 100-mile journey and honor their departed friend.

“When I would hurt in that race, I would think: ‘At least I’m able to do something this amazing,'” said Holley. “A couple of times we said: ‘What do you think Gaza would say about this part of the race?'”

The closer the three got to the finish line, the more emotional the race became.

“Even the night [Luc’s] jet went down; I don’t feel like he ever left me. A lot of people say that their heart drops but I never felt it,” said Cassy. “I feel him all the time, especially when I’m outside, especially when I see a sunset or am on the top of a mountain. Something that I know he would love–I know he’s there.

Moments before crossing the finish line at 5 a.m. on Oct 7, Cassy was seen pushing her daughter in a stroller, followed by the Sweeney’s and other friends of Gruenther.

“This whole group running with me and me pushing [Serene], it’s all because of Luc,” said Cassy through glistening eyes. “He was that inspiring to get these people out there.”

Hugs and cheering were met by tears and laughter as the accomplishment of running 100 miles set in for the Sweeney’s.

“The pain during the last ten miles was excruciating,” said Sweeney. “But every time I would get real down, I would think about ‘Gaza’ and that really helped me through a lot of the pain that I was feeling.”

And so the group left, sharing stories of the race as the crowd slowly shuffled home and the music died down. Although the race was over, crossing the finish line symbolized an optimistic step forward on the road to recovery.

“I think crossing the finish line more or less closed a chapter on what ‘Gaza’ stood for here in Italy, being as adventurous as he was,” said Sweeney. “It was pretty emotional.”

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Magredi Moutain Trail Run

The Mayor of Maniago would like us to know that on October 5th the Maniago Italian community is dedicating the Magredi Mountain Trail Run in memory of Maj. Lucas Gruenther. It is a 100 mile trail run through the territories of the Friulian Dolomites Pordenone. The race starts and finishes in the square in Vivaro, with the half way mark in Maniago. The city of Vivaro will set up food kiosks and organize musical animations. More information will provided as it comes in.

MMT 100 mile


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