Capt. Victor L. ‘Cowboy’ Cerne, USN (Ret): Aug. 21, 1952 – April 9, 2020

On April 9, 2020 the world lost an American patriot and hero. Capt. Victor L. “Cowboy” Cerne, USN (Ret), was taken from this world suddenly and unexpectedly and leaves a void in the hearts of all who knew him.

Capt. (Ret) Cerne, son of Rev. Victor and Billie Cerne, born on Aug. 21, 1952 was a native of Norman, Okla., where he met and married his high school sweetheart, Cindy L. Hopkins, whom he would be married to until his untimely passing. He held a BA from the University of Central Oklahoma and an MBA from Baker College and also attended the University of Michigan College of Engineering and The Wharton School of Business.

Capt. Cerne started his military career as a draftee in the United States Army during the Vietnam War Era. After completing a two-year tour in the Army, he returned to Oklahoma and earned his degree from UCO. He received his commission as a Naval officer through the Aviation Officer Candidate Program in February 1978. After completion of Naval Flight Officer training at VT-10 and VT-86, he was designated a Naval Flight Officer in October 1978.

His career included three Mediterranean deployments, two Western Pacific deployments, and three deployments aboard the USS Midway (CV-41) while stationed in Atsugi, Japan. He attended the Operational Test Director School and did a follow-on tour at the Navy’s Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX-5) where he served as Operation Test Director for the HARM missile system, firing the first missile to be launched from the EA-6B Prowler aircraft. Following that, he also served as training and readiness officer for Naval Air Forces Atlantic Fleet. He then screened for command and served as executive officer for Tactical Warfare Squadrons VAQ-137 “Rooks” and VAQ-135. He then assumed command of the “Black Ravens” of VAQ-135.

Following his command tour, Capt. Cerne was the Air Officer (“Air Boss”) aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln. His final naval tour was as Director of Operations (J3), Joint Information Operations Center at Lackland AFB in Texas.

Capt. Cerne accumulated 4,500 flight hours with 3,000 of those in the EA-6B “Prowler.” He has 1,027 carrier landings, earning him placement with the “1,000 Trap Club” in the National Naval Aviation Museum. With 100 combat missions from Libya, Iraq, and Bosnia, Capt. Cerne was honored with over 20 major awards and decorations from The United States Navy.

After Capt. Cerne’s retirement from the USN in October 2001, he continued to work as an executive in business development for the defense industries largest and most successful companies.

For those of you fortunate enough to have crossed paths with Vic, you felt his light, knew that his smile was infectious and his handshake solid and sure. He would do anything, for anyone. A straight shooter who served his country and fellow man with honor and respect and was selfless in his generosity. If you had the privilege to meet Vic, your heart and soul was forever changed for the better. The legacy of his exceptional, compassionate character is timeless.

On the morning of April 9, 2020, Victor and Cindy sat on the porch of their home in Granbury, Texas and watched two bluebirds attend to their newly hatched baby birds in a house that he built for them. He is survived by his wife and teammate, Cindy Cerne, whose profound love for him is immeasurable; his loving children, Justin and Molly Cerne; and son-in-law, Andrew Graham. They are honored to have had him as a husband and father. He will be forever missed by his entire family and countless friends.

Capt. Victor L. Cerne, USN Retired, will be laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia at a date to be determined. Additional details will be updated at In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made in honor of Capt. Victor L. Cerne to the United Service Organization, Inc. (USO) or to The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals,

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