MOORHEAD, Minn. -- A year ago, Burton Paynter's son was helping him make arrangements for his final resting place in case a lung transplant didn't come through.
Today, the grieving father will leave his Moorhead home for Pensacola, Fla., to lay his son to rest after the Marine captain and at least two others were killed when a Navy training plane crashed.
"I never thought I'd be burying him," Paynter said from his home Tuesday.
The Navy News Service said the T-39N Sabreliner crashed near Ellijay, Ga., at about 4 p.m. Monday during a routine cross-country training mission.
Rescue crews recovered three bodies from the crash -- including that of 38-year-old Capt. Jason J. Paynter -- and were searching for a fourth crew member. The Navy was withholding the victims' names pending notification of relatives.
The plane belonged to Training Air Wing 6, based out of Naval Air Station Pensacola. The military is investigating the cause of the crash.
Two Marines showed up on Burton Paynter's doorstep about 1 a.m. Tuesday to break the bad news. He came to the United States in 1982 from his native Bermuda, a British territory, and he served in the British artillery.
"So, something like this, we're prepared for it -- up to a point," he said.
Jason Paynter, who was born in Bermuda, was determined to fly from a young age, his father said.
"When he joined the service, they promised that they'll put him through flight training," he recalled. "But what they done, they stuck a rifle in his hand and sent him over to the desert."
Jason Paynter returned as a sergeant, went through college and officer's training and pursued aviation, eventually becoming a military flight instructor.
"Something had to go wrong with that plane, because Jason was a good pilot," his father said.
Jason Paynter is survived by his wife, Brandy, and three young children in Pensacola, where the family bought a home last year. His two half-sisters live in the Fargo area.
"He put in his retirement papers and they guaranteed him if he made major, he could stay there in Pensacola and continue on flight instructing," his dad said, adding the family is "taking it pretty hard."
The 69-year-old said it had been about seven years since he'd seen Jason -- a "good boy" and a "real jokester" who enjoyed giving his dad a good-natured ribbing -- but they spoke often by phone.
He said his son was deployed several times to Iraq and Afghanistan. After one mission in May 2005, Jason Paynter sent his father an American flag with a certificate explaining that it had been flown over Afghanistan in his father's honor during Operation Enduring Freedom.
Burton Paynter, who got his lung transplant last July 9, said he'll have to drive to Pensacola for the funeral because his doctors don't want him flying -- a passion his son never stopped pursuing.
"He was living his dream," he said.
Mike Nowatzki is a reporter at The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.