About the foundation

About Rick “Guns” Garin

Major Richard Charles “GUNS” Garin (Rick)

Major Richard Charles “GUNS” Garin (Rick) was born to Alan and Marie Garin in Medina, Ohio in 1984, the youngest of their two boys. When Rick was four the family moved to Weddington, North Carolina where they settled for the rest of their upbringing. Growing up, Rick and his brother Steve both had a passion for cars and racing. Soon this passion spread to aviation, with both boys soloing a glider at only age 14. Rick enlisted in the South Carolina Air National Guard during his senior year at Charlotte Catholic High School in October 2002. After attending basic training that summer, he enrolled in the University of South Carolina where he earned a bachelor’s degree in business in just three-and-a-half years. He accomplished this while also serving in the Air National Guard as a life support technician at McEntire Joint National Guard Base.

 During Freshman year classes at USC, Rick met the love of his life and future wife, Kelly Spoon. Rick and Kelly married in 2009 and settled in Columbia, SC. They welcomed their first daughter, Jordan, in 2015, built their dream home together in 2018, and had their second daughter, Katelyn, in 2019. His priority was always his family; “My Girls” were the center of his universe.

Upon graduating from USC in 2006, Rick was competitively selected to commission as an officer and become an F-16 pilot at McEntire. He excelled throughout his military commissioning and pilot training, earning the “Distinguished Graduate” designation among multiple awards. Shortly after earning qualification as “Combat Mission Ready” in the F-16 and getting the callsign “GUNS,” he deployed to Southwest Asia in support of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM in 2010. After returning from his first combat deployment, Guns once again excelled in the Flight Lead upgrade, a big milestone in a fighter pilot’s career. In 2012 he deployed again, this time to Afghanistan, leading combat flights supporting Operation ENDURING FREEDOM. During that time, he also worked for Air Force Central Command, supporting relations with foreign military allies. In 2014 he completed the rigorous F-16 instructor pilot upgrade while deployed to Jordan.

Guns, as he always did, excelled in a variety of very challenging roles at McEntire and was soon competitively selected to attend the Weapons Instructor Course at Nellis Air Force Base, where he earned his “patch” and entered the top one percent of fighter pilots. He returned to McEntire, where he served as the chief Instructor pilot for three years, leading the squadron on another combat deployment to Southwest Asia, this time in support of Operation INHERENT RESOLVE in 2018.

Shortly thereafter, GUNS followed in his father and brother’s footsteps as he was hired as a first officer at American Airlines on the A320, while remaining an F-16 pilot and Traditional Guardsman at McEntire. After a short tenure at American Airlines, he took a military leave of absence to return to full-time Guard duty. His flying career was exemplified not only by his own excellence, but his amazing ability to instruct other pilots and enable them to reach their full potential. His legacy will live on at McEntire as they have renamed the squadron’s highest honor the “Guns Garin Combat Flight Leadership Award.”

Rick is also survived by his father Alan, mother Marie, older brother Steve, sister-in-law Ashlie, niece Joss, nephew Jameson, and grandmother Mary Puzzo. He will be remembered by his family and closest friends as loving, dedicated, and fun. At home, at work, everywhere he went – GUNS made the world a better place because he brought out the best in all of us. His smile was unmatched, and he had an uncanny ability to make people laugh. He was an incredible husband, father, brother, son, friend, and pilot.