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Captain Stephen R. Phillis, Pilot, Iraq War Veteran

by Melissa LaScaleia

Phillis Boulevard is one of the streets that borders the Properties at the Market Common Real Estate Office and the Insider offices. It is off of Farrow Parkway in the Market Common, and leads to the General Aviation Terminal for private planes coming to and from Myrtle Beach.

Phillis Boulevard is named in honor of Captain Stephen R. Phillis, who died in military service when he was 31 years old. 

Stephen (Steve) Phillis was born on May 17, 1960. He grew up in Rock Island, Illinois, the eldest of five children. He graduated from Rock Island Alleman High School in Illinois, then the United States Air Force Academy in 1982.

Phillis was a top graduate of his Fighter Weapons School class, and trained to fly the A-10 fighter craft, a plane nicknamed by the military, the “Warthog.”

Captain Phillis was stationed at the Myrtle Beach Air Force Base, and was part of the 353rd Tactical Fighter Squadron, 354th Tactical Fighter Wing. He was deployed to Saudi Arabia in 1990 to support the United States in operation Desert Storm.

On February 15, 1991, Captain Phillis and his wingman Rob were sent on a mission to Iraq to bomb the enemy, 80 miles further than any A-10s had gone previously.

After completing their mission, the two were flying back to the Saudi border when Rob’s plane was hit by a missile from enemy fire. One engine of the plane was damaged, and his plane was becoming difficult to control. He radioed Phillis his intent to eject, then did. Phillis turned his plane back to try to determine his wingman’s exact location so a search could be conducted with greater precision and immediacy. Heading back towards Iraq, he was hit by enemy fire so intense he had no time to eject. He perished in the crash.

As both soldiers were initially MIA, it took several months before the details of the story were fully known. Rob survived and was rescued by American troops. Captain Phillis’ body was recovered. He is buried in Memorial Park Cemetery in Rock Island, Illinois.

Captain Phillis was known by his colleagues, friends and family as brave and loyal. He was dedicated to flying, and a man for whom it was natural to risk his life to preserve that of his wingman’s.

Captain Phillis’ awards include the Purple Heart, the Silver Star, the Air Medal with three oak-leaf clusters, and the Air Force Commendation Medal.

To read more of our history features click here

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