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Scott Zellem

Scott Zellem

Male 1969 - 2004  (35 years)

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  • Name Scott Zellem 
    Born 10 Mar 1969  Indiana, PA, USA Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Gender Male 
    Biography Lieutenant Commander Scott Zellem, 35, was one of four San Diego-based airmen in a S-3B Viking jet that crashed on an uninhabited island after it had taken off from the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis, deployed in the Western Pacific.

    Zellem was a 1987 graduate of Indiana Area High School and a 1991 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. He had been a pilot in the U.S. Navy for 13 years.

    In May 2003, he was a flight officer on the first of two Navy S-3B Vikings that carried President George W. Bush onto the USS Abraham Lincoln, where Bush addressed the nation following the fall of Saddam Hussein in Iraq.
    According to a Navy public affairs release, Zellem's Viking was flying in the vicinity of the Iwo Jima island chain when communications were lost at about 7:42 p.m. local time Tuesday.

    The Navy first listed the crew members as missing after the plane did not return. Navy Newsstand, a Web source for Navy news, reported Friday morning that the Navy declared the four crewmen dead. Aircraft wreckage has been found and recovery efforts are under way, according to the Web news site.

    Kita Iwo Jima is the top of a volcano that juts 2,520 feet above the Pacific Ocean. It has sheer sides with no beach. It lies about 620 miles south of Japan and 42 miles north of Iwo Jima, the scene of fierce fighting between American and Japanese troops during World War II.

    The Navy said a memorial service for the crew would be held Sunday aboard the Stennis. Zellem's family announced that a memorial service would be held later in Indiana and that Scott Zellem would be buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

    Zellem is the son of Ted Zellem of Charlottesville, Virginia, and Sally Zellem of Indiana, a retired executive director of the Indiana County chapter of the American Red Cross.

    At Indiana high school, Zellem was a star linebacker and tight end on the football team. In 1986, he was named the team's most valuable player and the defensive player of the year. He also was the District 6 Quad A defensive player of the year.
    Zellem also played football for the Naval Academy.

    In November 2002, Zellem told Indiana Area Senior High School students to "take heed of what is happening in the world ... whether it is next door or on the next continent. "There will be some tough and scary times ahead in the near future," Zellem said in a Veterans' Day speech. "When they happen, be tough, be brave and remember you are an American and ready to fight for your freedom as veterans have before you. If you are afraid or if you run and stick your head in the sand, the bad guys win. And that is unacceptable."

    Rod Ruddock, the retired principal of the high school, said Friday that Zellem easily captured the students' attention each time he was invited to speak at the school. "It was his charisma, his spirit and his belief in his country," Ruddock said. "I wanted someone closer in age to speak to our students. I could not think of a better representative than Scott."

    Zellem's younger brother, Ed, boasted that Scott and the other officers who flew President Bush to the USS Lincoln last year influenced the president's decision to appear in military garb. "After Scott gave the president his safety briefing in San Diego, the president asked where he could change into his suit when he arrived at the carrier," said Ed, a Navy officer who is stationed in Virginia. "My brother and the others said he would look much better in the flight suit. The president shrugged and said OK. "So that's one of my brother's legacies to the world."

    The Viking jet is a four-seat, $27 million aircraft originally built to hunt and sink Soviet submarines during the Cold War. In recent years the plane has taken on added roles, including aerial refueling and maritime strike missions. It can carry Harpoon and Maverick air-to-surface missiles.

    Jennifer Zellem had no intention of marrying a Navy man. When a friend invited her to a beach party here on Good Friday, April 21, 2000, she tried to decline, saying that she didn't want to meet any unattached Navy officers.

    But that was before she saw Scott Zellem. "It was 100 percent love at first sight," she said yesterday in a phone interview. He called Easter Sunday, asking for a date the next day. They married August 16, 2002. "He was the most compassionate, sincere, loving person I've ever known," she said.

    A sports fan, Zellem had played football in high school and at the Naval Academy. Zooming around Mission Bay on a jet ski, walking on the beach at sunset with her or playing with their 13-month-old son, Tanner, were all favorite activities, Jennifer said. But the Navy and flying were his passion. While she was worried about the risks of a naval aviator – being catapulted off a carrier deck and then landing on a pitching, moving deck, stopped only by a thick steel cable and a stout tailhook – "I loved watching how much he loved his job."

    Lieutenant Commander Scott Zellem Naval aviator from Indiana, Pensylvania, buried at Arlington National Cemetery
    Wednesday, September 08, 2004
    Courtesy of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

    Lieutenant Commander Scott Zellem, a native of Indiana, Pennsylvania, who died August 10, 2004, while on a training flight in southeast Japan, was buried yesterday with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.
    Commander Zellem, 35, was one of four Navy officers who died when their S-3B Viking surveillance aircraft crashed on the island of Kita Iwo Jima during operations from the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis.

    He was a pilot with the California-based Sea Control Squadron VS-35, the unit that on May 1, 2003, flew President Bush onto the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln, where the president told the nation that major combat in Iraq was over. The squadron's commander, John Lussier, piloted the S-3B that carried Bush.

    Commander Zellem graduated from Indiana High School in 1987 and from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1991, and received his Naval aviation wings at Pensacola, Fla., in 1992. He excelled in football in high school and at the Naval Academy.

    After graduation from the academy, he flew the A-6 Intruder and S-3B Viking from several aircraft carriers, including the USS Independence, USS Abraham Lincoln and USS John C. Stennis.

    He had more than 540 carrier landings during his career and flew several combat missions in 2003 as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom, for which he was awarded an Air Medal.

    In addition to yesterday's ceremony at Arlington, Lt. Cmdr. Zellem has been honored on several other occasions since his death. On August 15, 2004, Navy S-3B Viking jets flew in the missing man formation over the Stennis as a 21-gun salute sounded across the carrier's flight deck during a memorial service for Commander Zellem and the other three aviators.

    Commander Zellem's mother is Sally London Zellem of Indiana, longtime director of the local American Red Cross chapter. In addition to his mother, he is survived by his wife, Jennifer Zellem, and their son, Tanner, both of San Diego; his father, Theodore F. Zellem of Charlottesville, Virginia.; a brother, Edward Zellem of Dahlgren, Virginia; and a sister, Millie Cathcart, also of Charlottesville.

    On May 1, 2003, Lieutenant Commander Scott Zellem was standing in a briefing room at North Island Naval Air Station in San Diego when President George W. Bush entered, wearing an olive-green naval flight suit. "Mr. President," Zellem said, "you look awesome." "Thanks, 'Z-man,' " Bush replied, using Zellem's Navy call sign.

    Later that day, the president made a tailhook landing on the USS Abraham Lincoln in a S-3B Viking jet flown by John "Skip" Lussier, commander of Zellem's squadron. Bush then gave a speech that heralded an end to major combat operations in Iraq.

    Bush was soon criticized by some Democrats who saw the flight as little more than a "Top Gun" stunt. Sen. Robert Byrd of West Virginia questioned "the motives of a deskbound president who assumes the garb of a warrior for the purposes of a speech."

    But for Scott Zellem, a native of Indiana, Pennsylvania, the moment was a high point in his naval career. Zellem, 35, was buried with full military honors last week at Arlington National Cemetery. He was one of four Navy officers who died Aug. 10 when their jet crashed into an uninhabited island in the Pacific Ocean during a training exercise.

    Zellem gave family members extensive details about his encounter with the president. "It was one of the highlights of his life," said his brother, Navy Commander Ed Zellem of Dahlgren, Virginia. "Just to get a chance to meet the commander in chief -- for a military guy, it doesn't get any better than that."

    Scott Zellem was an obvious choice for the team of officers who would accompany Bush and Andrew Card, White House chief of staff, to the aircraft carrier, said Lieutenant Rockne Baker, another member of that team. "It was a no-brainer," Baker said. "Scott was as motivated and charismatic as they come."

    Bush quickly put Zellem, Baker and everyone else in the briefing room at ease with a few jokes, some of them off-color. Zellem showed the president how to use the Viking's ejector seat, and the other officers went over flight routes with Bush.
    Zellem was the navigator and Baker was the pilot on a jet that flew ahead of the president's plane and also carried Card, who briefly took the controls, just as Bush did on his jet.

    The crew on the aircraft carrier, not Bush or his staff, decided to put up the controversial "Mission Accomplished" banner that hung behind the president during his speech, Scott Zellem told his brother Ed. Even though the war in Iraq was still raging, the USS Abraham Lincoln was headed home, and for the men and women on board, the ship's mission was accomplished.

    Baker said that the ship's crewmembers did not see the event as a political stunt.
    "Every person on that boat would have divvied up what it cost to bring the president," he said. "It was so important for them."

    From the father in law of Lcdr Scott Zellem.  Gary Hunt
    Eulogy for Scott Zellem
    NAS, North Island Memorial

    I asked for the opportunity to speak today. I did not want to, I had to. Scott is going to be remembered and praised by those of you who knew him in the aspects of his life that I am not knowledgeable enough to comment upon. However, I felt it important for everyone to hear how someone who viewed Scott expressly in his day to day life outside of the Navy thought of the man.
    From all the articles that have come out about Scott since his death, I have had an awakening, of sorts. I have come to realize that for me Scott Zellem was not the hometown All-American kid, or the Naval Academy Linebacker Stud, or even the Navy Pilot. I knew Scott Zellem as husband to one of the five most cherished things I have in this world and Father to another one of them. And as chartered with taking care of 2/5’s of all that really, deeply, matters to me in life, I never worried one minute for their safety, or their happiness.
    I remember when I met Scott. It was at our home in Westlake Village, California; Jennifer had phoned and told me she had been dating this guy whom she liked very much. All she said was “Dad, his name is Scott, he is a pilot in the Navy and he is a great guy.” She told me that the two of them were going to come up for something or another in the LA area and they would be staying over Saturday evening. They would be coming in late so we planned to have breakfast Sunday before they headed back to San Diego.
    Sunday morning comes along and walking in with Jennifer is this tall good looking guy with a big smile on his face. We shake hands, and then we talk for a while. I can tell early on that he is a great communicator, he also has this real big, great, wonderful smile. When they leave Lynn says “well he seems like a nice, smart, charming guy and he is so handsome”. I say “yeah, a little too charming, too nice, too smart, and too good looking”. Anyway, on that Sunday morning………a lifetime ago, I am not fooled one bit by Scott Zellem, I know what these Naval aviators are all about, I saw that movie Top Gun! What I had no idea, but determined later, was that with Scott Zellem….what you saw is what you got. And this nice, smart, caring, and charming guy who smiled almost all the time, consistently displayed those attributes every time I was with him.
    Anyone who knows me well knows that from time to time I will get an idea or a wild hair and come hell or high water I am going to do it. And while I know it is not a good quality to have, I am not even really interested (or at least not very interested) in what others may think of the idea. And no one knows this more than my lovely wife of 31 years, Lynn. And I can tell you that Lynn is not going to like this idea one bit, but in very short order I am going to go and get a tattoo. The reason is because I want a visible and constant reminder of Scott. And I have decided the tattoo is going on my upper arm and is going to say: Blue Wolf 704. No fancy drawing, not a bunch of colors just Blue Wolf 704.
    You see, when my kids were growing up, one of the things I did almost every night was read them a book. As they got older I would tell them a story or we would just talk about something they were interested in. And, it was wonderful quality time between a father and a child. And when Tanner came along, I looked forward with great anticipation to the evenings when Scott would say “Tanner, kiss Grand Dude goodnight” and then the two of them would go and share their own great moments together.
    Then on Tuesday, August the 10th, life threw all of us this wicked curve ball. And because of this bit of fate, I suspect that I am now going to be doing the same with my Grandson that I did with his mom so many years ago. And when Tanner is a little bigger and we have grown from books to talking about life, every now and again I am going take his little hand and he is going to touch that tattoo on my arm and I am going to say, “My Man, tonight Grand Dude is going to tell you the story of Blue Wolf 704.”
    I will tell him that one night his Dad and three other brave men got into an airplane named Blue Wolf 704. The rest of us were all safe and asleep in our beds when they flew off an aircraft carrier called the John C. Stennis, a great ship. You see buddy, Blue Wolf 704 was part of the US Navy and the US Navy’s job is to make the world safe. Safe enough so you and I and a whole lot of other people have the freedom to say what they want and freedom to print what they want and the freedom to do (pretty much) what they want. And to your Dad and the other guys on Blue Wolf 704, even if they did not like what the other people were saying, or printing or doing they would go and fly anyway because they cared about freedom and they had promised and sworn to protect freedom. I know this because your Dad told me and he was an honest man. He cared so much about your Mom and you and Granny and Grand Dude and a lot of other people he had never even met that he was willing to do something very dangerous to make certain that all of us would be free and safe.
    I remember one time your Dad telling me he got up for work real early and went to kiss you and your Mom goodbye and you two guys were all snuggled up together under the covers. He leaned down to kiss the two of you goodbye and he just stood there for a long time and your Dad told me “ I use to love my job because I loved to fly but for the first time, ever, I know why I do what I do”. It was because he loved you guys so much that he would do anything to protect you and your Mom even if it was scary and dangerous.
    So Blue Wolf 704 left that night but they did not come back. And the Navy sent ships and planes and helicopters and people to go find Blue Wolf 704 because they cared for these men and wanted to make certain they were safe. And they were safe, just not safe like you and I know. They were safe with God and they are still safe with God.
    And when we found out that Blue Wolf 704 was never coming home, everybody was sad because these were good men and they had families like you and your mom who loved them and were waiting for them to come home so they could all be happy together. And everybody cried for a long time because we would miss them. Granny and Aunt Millie and Uncle Brian cried and Uncle Rip and Aunt Kelly and Grandma Sally cried and all your cousins cried. And Catbox and Kelsey, and Socks and Wrap and Snapper and Chum cried. And even people who do not have special names like your Dad and the other pilots cried. Even your Uncle Ed who is as big and strong as a house and was a big-time football stud like your Dad cried.
    And me Well, you and your Mom were staying with Granny and me when we found out Blue Wolf 704 would never come back and for the next five days I stayed home and did not go to work. And all day long while Granny and your mom talked and made plans you and I would walk around together. We’d go look my tractor and my motorcycle and Uncle Brian’s big truck with the loud horn and I would put you in the backpack and take you for long hikes and every now and then I would have to sit down and cry because I loved your very much Dad and I was sad too. But then you would get a worried look on your face so I would stop because I did not want you to be nervous or scared about the future because your future and your mom’s future was going to be okay.
    You see, your Dad was a very smart guy, he married your Mom and entrusted her with the most important thing is his life, you, because he knew she was just like him and she could take care of you if anything happened to him. Your Dad also knew there were two wonderful families that would protect and take care of you and your Mom no matter what sacrifice they had to make. Your Dad also knew he had great friends that also loved and cared for you and your Mom and they were going to help. And he knew that every night in places that none of us ever even think about there are other planes like Blue Wolf 704 that are flying around to make certain that you and me and all the people we love and people that these pilots do not even know are safe and free.
    Now let’s hold hands and bow our heads and pray: God Bless Blue Wolf 704, God Bless the United States Navy and God Bless America.
    Good night, my man. Sleep well.

    Tribute to Blue Wolf 704     Letter from Mr. Hunt
    Occupation Pilot 
    Residence Indiana, PA, USA Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Died 10 Aug 2004  Kita Iwo Jima, Japan Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Person ID I5571  Blank Family
    Last Modified 18 Oct 2010 

    Family Living 
     1. Living
    Last Modified 22 Mar 2006 
    Family ID F3450  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

  • Event Map
    Link to Google MapsBorn - 10 Mar 1969 - Indiana, PA, USA Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsResidence - - Indiana, PA, USA Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsDied - 10 Aug 2004 - Kita Iwo Jima, Japan Link to Google Earth
     = Link to Google Earth 

  • Photos
    Lt Cmdr Scott Zellem, right, and President George Bush
    Lt Cmdr Scott Zellem, right, and President George Bush

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