A U.S. Air Force pilot and Utah Valley alumnus, killed last year in a crash while practicing for the Thunderbirds precision flight team, has received a unique honor: Having the new Marvel movie dedicated to him.
At the end of the credits of “Captain Marvel,” which opens nationwide on Friday, there’s a line that reads: “In memory of Major Stephen ‘Cajun’ Del Bagno, Thunderbird 4.”
Del Bagno, 34, died April 3, 2018, when his F-16 Fighting Falcon crashed in the Nevada Test and Firing Range north of Nellis Air Force Base, outside Las Vegas.
Del Bagno graduated in 2005 from Utah Valley State College, now Utah Valley University, in Orem. Before joining the Air Force, he was a civilian flight instructor and banner tow pilot.
Brie Larson, the star of “Captain Marvel,” visited Nellis to research her role — Captain Marvel’s alter ego is Carol Danvers, an Air Force pilot — and met Del Bagno and other Thunderbirds pilots.
“You were a brilliant pilot and an even better person,” Larson wrote in an Instagram post that went up a few days after Del Bagno’s death. “Thank you for inspiring me to work harder and live fuller.”
The post included a photo of Del Bagno and Larson on a runway, both wearing flight suits and aviator sunglasses.
“When you talked about the Air Force; the adventure, the rituals, the community — I felt your passion and purpose,” Larson wrote. “Your humble attitude and ideals have stayed with me and inspired a stronger approach to my work. There is no Carol without you. You helped create her and I am forever grateful.”
Larson referred to Del Bagno by his call sign, Cajun, and added that “I hold the call sign you gave me with your fellow pilots and Thunderbird brothers with pride.” She ended the post with what appeared to be her call sign, “Sparrow, forever” and a broken-heart emoji.