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'An amazing young man': Procession honors Pittsfield native who died on Air Force training mission

The remains of Jacob Galliher, a U.S. Air Force staff sergeant who grew up in Pittsfield, will return to western Massachusetts on Friday.

Galliher was among eight service members who died last month when an Osprey aircraft crashed during a training mission off southwestern Japan. The crash led the U.S. military to ground its fleet of Ospreys while the investigation into the accident continues.

Galliher, known as "Jake," graduated from Taconic High School in 2017. His family
released a statement after officials confirmed his death.

"Jacob was an incredible son, brother, husband, father and friend to so many. His short life touched and made better the lives of hundreds, if not thousands in Pittsfield, in this region and everywhere he served," the family said. "[W]e are mourning and ask for privacy and prayers for his wife, his two amazing children and all of us while we grieve and prepare for his return home.”

Galliher served in the 43rd Intelligence Squadron. The Air Force described Galliher as an "airborne linguist" specializing in Chinese-Mandarin.

An Air Force major who served with him described Galliher as a beloved husband, father, son, brother and "model Airman."

“With a ready smile, Jake brought the unit together on and off-duty through humor and an inexhaustible supply of energy, whether it was on the aircraft, in the gym, or on the slopes with the team," Maj. Gilbert Summers said in a statement.

Galliher's remains arrive at Westover Air Reserve Base late afternoon Friday.

His family, along members of the Pittsfield police and fire departments and others, lined the tarmac, as did politicians including Gov. Maura Healey.

"To me, watching the casket come down from the C-17 onto the tarmac and be taken by service members to the hearse, the American flag draping the casket — Jake Galliher represents everything that is good about this country," Healey told reporters later.

The governor said she met with members of Galliher's family at the Statehouse earlier in the week.

"And they talked about what an amazing young man he was — a lot of experience, a lot of life experience at a very young age," she said. "It's heartbreaking to know that he leaves behind his wife, Ivy, and and two young children."

After leaving Westover, emergency officials escorted Galliher's remains in a procession on the Massachusetts Turnpike. It will continue to Lee, Lenox and then Pittsfield — past Taconic High.

Members of the public were invited to pay their respects during the procession in Lee and Pittsfield.

"I can't emphasize enough the sacrifice of such a young life for Jake Gallagher, so well regarded, so well spoken of," said U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, who also attended the arrival at Westover. "And I think that we're fortunate in America that Jake Gallagher wanted to join the military. Remember that we have a volunteer military now in America, and I think he's an example of the best of it."

Galliher's wake is scheduled for 2-6 p.m. Tuesday and funeral at 11 a.m. Wednesday — both at St. Agnes Catholic Community in Dalton.

Updated: December 15, 2023 at 5:00 PM EST
This story was updated to include information, photos and reaction from Galliher's arrival at Westover.
Nancy Eve Cohen is a senior reporter focusing on Berkshire County. Earlier in her career she was NPR’s Midwest editor in Washington, D.C., managing editor of the Northeast Environmental Hub and recorded sound for TV networks on global assignments, including the war in Sarajevo and an interview with Fidel Castro.
Before joining New England Public Media, Alden was a producer for the CBS NEWS program 60 Minutes. In that role, he covered topics ranging from art, music and medicine to business, education and politics.
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