ABU DHABI // To his colleagues, Daniel Swayne was one of the most decorated pilots in US military history — a trusted and well-liked pilot and instructor with more than 4,000 flying hours and combat experience in two Gulf wars. To his family, he was a dedicated husband and father.
Swayne, 51, was killed alongside Emirati pilot Nawaf Abdullah Salem Al Nuaimi when their AT-802 training aircraft crashed earlier this month.
His wife, Kate, 34, said a letter from her husband he wrote shortly before his death summed him up.
Speaking in their home in Abu Dhabi, holding their 7-year-old daughter Grace, she read from the letter.”‘You truly complete me, together we are one, I need you because you make me the man I want to be: a loving husband and father, together we’re a family. A strong, loving healthy family’,” she said.
Swayne, from Pennsylvania, was one of the few F-16 fighter jet pilots with more than 4,000 hours flight experience — active F-16 pilots usually only log up about 2,500 hours — and had served in both Gulf Wars.
“He loved to fly, but we were the most important thing to him and I guess the blessing is that we always knew that and so for him, the world knows that he was an amazing pilot but the world doesn’t know what a loving, compassionate man he was,” said Ms Swayne, who is originally from Kansas.
The couple met while she was working an office job at the Shaw Air Force Base in South Carolina. She said that he had a reputation as a “legend” in the force.
She had worked with pilots before and came to expect that there was a bravado associated with the job, which put her off getting to know him.
“Then I met him and I was so surprised at just how humble he was. Soon enough we were having lunch,” she said.
They quickly got to know each other over work lunches and married soon afterwards.
Her husband’s military career took the couple around Asia, before in 2013 they settled in the UAE.
As Swayne had been deployed here during the First Gulf War in 1990 and visited it numerous times since, he had grown an affinity for the place and considered it “home”, said Ms Swayne.
“I think he has always had a special place for the UAE,” she said. “He and his local friends, they would go out and in the desert, falconry and barbecues. He just fell in love with the country and the people.”
Ahmed Zaher, 52, a former pilot who fought in the First Gulf War with Swayne, said that his friend would be remembered as an “incredibly hard-working man and a wonderful person to be around”.
“He was so hard working, he wouldn’t accept anything but the best. And then you would also just want to spend time with him as he was really a great and loving man,” said the Emirati.
Mr Zaher said that those who remember him the most will know that he cared deeply about family.
The friends of the couple have now set up a fund to raise money for Grace’s education on the youcaring.com website.
Ms Swayne said Grace now aspires to be a pilot after she has finished university.
“He had this way of communicating with people, this patience, just the way he was with our daughter, the way he could teach her how to tie her shoes, something I could never do,” she said.
“[Grace] might have too much of me in her, but there are some things that she’s just like her father.”
Source: uae news