County Faces: Derek Pelletier of Eagle Lake
EAGLE LAKE, Maine — When U.S. Navy Lieutenant Junior Grade Derek Pelletier returned home to Eagle Lake for a Christmas vacation, the military helicopter pilot spent some time working out at the University of Maine at Fort Kent Sport Center and skiing at the Lonesome Pine Trails ski resort.
Pelletier, 28, is a 2010 UMFK alumnus and 2006 Maine skimeister.
“I do whatever outdoor activity I can do while I am home,” Pelletier said. “But mostly, I like to hang out with Dad.”
Pelletier is the son of Fort Kent Police Chief Tom Pelletier and his wife Carol, a retired medical assistant. Currently stationed in Norfolk, Va., Derek earned his Wings of Gold from the U.S. Navy on July 8, 2016.
Derek Pelletier said he has aspired for most of his life to become a military pilot.
“I’ve wanted to be a Naval aviator since I was a kid, but really found my passion for helicopters once I enlisted in 2011,” he said. “I constantly saw them flying over the water, and found out the various missions that they are capable of.”
With his father and three uncles having served in the Navy, Derek Pelletier said his decision to join the military branch was a foregone decision.
“That day we dropped him off in Portland to be sworn in and flown to boot camp was one of the hardest things I’ve had to do as a mom,” Carol Pelletier said. “I am so extremely happy and proud that he has accomplished what he set out to do.”
Tom Pelletier recalled his son’s junior year at UMFK, when Derek served as a wilderness firefighter in northern Quebec. Having been flown in helicopters to combat the fire only furthered Derek’s resolve to pilot them.
“His face was all black from soot from getting flown in the backseat of the helicopter.
He said ‘man, someday I’m gonna fly these things,” Tom Pelletier said.
Family has always been important to Derek, who enjoyed the northern Maine tradition of hunting and fishing along with his father and paternal grandfather Gary, a former Maine game warden, who passed in 2013.
Derek said his paternal grandfather motivated him to achieve success.
“A giant influence was and is my grandfather, Gary Pelletier. Gramp would have been unbelievably proud,” he said.
Derek’s maternal grandparents, Lionel and Louise Marquis, as well as Tom Pelletier, Carol Pelletier and Jamie Pelletier, Derek’s sister, all attended Derek’s flight school graduation in Pensacola, Fla. His paternal grandmother Linda was unable to attend.
Tom and Carol placed Derek’s wings upon his chest at the ceremony.
“My entire family has been the rock that has helped me accomplish what I have, which is why I was honored to have my mom and dad pin my wings on,” Derek said. “I’ve always had my family to help level me out, and point my moral compass back to where it should be.”
Although he lives far from his St. John Valley home, Derek stays connected with his roots. He even traveled to Virginia to watch live as the 2016 UMFK Bengals teams won the national soccer championships.
Derek said he will always appreciate his northern Maine upbringing.
“As of right now, my goal for the future is to retire from the Navy, and continue flying. As for where, I would love to stay on the East Coast, and remain that much closer to family,” he said.
“Something I will never forget, is where I come from, and the drive and determination the people of The Valley have instilled in me.”