SAN DIEGO – It is the sound no parent ever wants to hear; the sound of a 21-gun salute means a service member is gone.
But for Lieutenant Nathan Poloski’s family, there was comfort Saturday afternoon as hundreds of people gathered to honor the loved one they lost during a ceremony at MCAS Miramar.
His family said Nathan died doing what he loved…flying. He had gone to his first military air show at just two years old and he grew into a strong, young man who lived his dream to be a Navy fighter pilot.
His sister said although she was his big sister and he was her baby brother, she looked up to him like a big brother and often found herself living through him.
“As a young girl with him, I went to the air shows and I had a passion for flying and when he got to do it, it was almost like I was living a childhood dream I would never fulfill,” Jacqueline Clements said. “He lived his dream.”
Any of the people you asked at the memorial service would likely say the 26-year-old Navy pilot died too soon.
But they’d also tell you the United States Naval Academy graduate lived each day of his life to the fullest.
“He was warm and smart,” his aunt Tina McEvoy said. “Funny, he loved life and lived it to the fullest and the outpouring of support and love has meant an enormous amount to his family.”
In addition to family members honoring him during the private ceremony, his superiors spoke highly of him too.
United States Navy Captain Gregory Keithley shared encounters he’d had with Lieutenant Poloski, calling his passion to fly and eagerness to help others contagious.
United States Navy Commander Michael Langbehn wrote toughing words about the Navy pilot he’d lost while aboard the USS Carl Vinson, but since the squadron had to continue on their mission, CAPT Keithley read his remarks during the service.
Lieutenant Nathan Poloski’s sister spoke about her brother, making people laugh, smile and cry. She admitted it wasn’t easy to do.
“For the last two weeks, I’ve thought about him; thought about our memories, stories everything,” Jacqueline Clements said. “It all became a blur, because I felt like I had so much to say. I didn’t know where to start.”
So she started at the beginning…sharing some of her earliest childhood memories of her brother.
Now, she’ll have to hold him close in a new way. Commander Langbehn’s wife gave Clements a necklace.
“It’s something that makes me feel connected to him,” she paused. “Because I don’t have anything else.”
But she does have support and that is something the family has thanked people for over and over again. People they don’t even know have taken the time to send them cards and words of encouragement.
Saturday hundreds gathered with them, wiping away tears, smiling at fond memories of Nathan…and together, looking toward the sky as pilots flew the missing man formation.