Friends and family packed Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Carson City on Saturday afternoon to say farewell to fallen Navy pilot Arthur Jason Bayer.
Simple and warm, the church was filled to capacity with those who knew him. A small choir sang from the balcony as the sunlight filtered softly above them. The altar was filled with bouquets.
"Jason knew exactly who and whose he was," said Reverend Ken Behnken. "Faith influenced every aspect of his life."
A test pilot in the Naval Weapons Test Squadron at China Lake in Ridgecrest, Calif., Bayer died March 28 in a helicopter crash near Lake Isabella, Calif., during a search and rescue exercise. He was born in Reno on March 10, 1968 and grew up in Carson City, the son of attorney Arthur and Merry Bayer. Merry was a high school teacher who died of cancer in 1999. He also had a sister, Jessica.
She recalled huddling together with him early on Christmas mornings, waiting for the time to open presents. There were rubber band fights. And the time that he wrote her name on the wall to get her in trouble.
"He went from fun-loving brother to amazing man," she said. "He showed such compassion for his country and love for his family. His leadership is showing us all how to follow our dreams and to live life to the fullest -- keep him in your prayers and follow his lead."
Among his survivors are his daughter, Gabriella, and wife, Anne, who is pregnant with their son. The baby is due in June.
"We all know what a dynamic person he is. His life is his testimony and every day I complete here, brings me one day closer to my soul mate," Anne said tearfully. "Please keep remembering us in your prayers. You will be going back to your homes and families, but Gabriella, Jason Christopher and I are going to have to work things out."
A touch of pride was mixed with the anguish in Arthur Bayer's voice as he described the infant son who pointed to the sky and said his first word: "jet." He now sees his granddaughter, 1-year-old Gabriella, doing much the same thing.
"He succeeded magnificently in life and had an elevated understanding of what it should be," he said. "His thinking transcended contemporary thoughts. He was a prince of a child and a prince of a man."
"It was a privilege to be your dad and share your life," he said.
Jason's remains will be laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors.
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