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EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE - Lt. Ali Jivanjee performed a unique balancing act as an American Air Force fighter jet pilot and a devout Muslim.
His casket - draped in an American flag and carried by men in traditional Pakistani clothes - somberly captured that for mourners during his traditional Muslim burial last week. On Wednesday, more than 500 squadron members, friends and relatives gathered for another memorial at Eglin Air Force Base's 58th Fighter Squadron.
Jivanjee, who was killed in a collision with another F-15 C Eagle pilot in a training mission above the Gulf of Mexico, joked with his fellow aviators by signing various military documents "Jihad" after they teased him about his first and middle names - Ali Akbar, his commander, Lt. Col. Todd Jaxx, said at a memorial Wednesday.
Fellow pilots eventually gave Jivanjee the call sign "Danny Boy," saying he needed a strong Irish name, Jaxx said.
The 26-year-old pilot from San Dimas, Calif., grew up in a Pakistani-American family and graduated from UCLA with a degree in electrical engineering before joining the Air Force in 2004.
"He was an outstanding fighter pilot, a stellar officer, an obedient son and a devout Muslim who was an amazing poker player. To several of us in this room, many of those things would seem to be in conflict, but it was not an issue for Ali because above all else, Ali is a great American," Jaxx said.
Jivanjee's parents, brother and wife attended Wednesday's memorial but did not speak.
He received a traditional Muslim burial in Tampa on Friday evening.
Ahmed Bedier, executive director of the Tampa office of the Counsel on American-Islamic Relations said Jivanjee's military service was unique.
"He was a model example of a person who was able to balance parts of his life. He was a pilot flying the F-15 and he could have accomplished so much," he said.
Jaxx said Jivanjee had wanted to become a fighter pilot since age 12.
He not only achieved his dreamed, but excelled by obtaining an exceptionally qualified rating on his check ride, he said.
An Air Force board is investigating the Feb. 20 crash. The second pilot, who has not been identified publicly by the military, ejected and was treated and released from a local hospital. Both F-15 Cs were lost in the crash.
The fighter wing resumed its normal training schedule on Monday after suspending flights following the crash.
[Last modified February 27, 2008, 23:42:43]