The first American casualty of Operation Desert Storm was an all-American youngster who became a dedicated father, husband and fighter pilot, his family, friends and teachers say.

Lt. Cmdr. Michael Scott Speicher, who was called Scott, Scotty or Spike, was flying a F-A-18 Hornet off the Mayport-based USS Saratoga when his plane was hit by an Iraqi-fired surface-to-air missile Wednesday night at the beginning of the Persian Gulf war.The 33-year-old pilot was listed as missing in action by Pentagon officials, who said his body has not been recovered.

Gov. Lawton Chiles ordered the American flag atop the Old Capitol in Tallahassee to fly at half-staff.

"It comes even more strongly home to us when we realize our first casualty is a Floridian," Chiles said Friday. "I know all of our sympathy goes out to his family."

Speicher's father, Wallace, speaking from his Jacksonville apartment, still holds out hope that his son bailed out and is alive.

"Scotty's coming home," he said.

Wallace "Spike" Speicher was a World War II fighter pilot in Italy for the Army Air Corps and instilled a love of planes and the military in his son.

In a statement the Navy released on her behalf, the pilot's wife, Joanne, asked that her request for privacy be honored and that "she be allowed to spend this trying time with her friends." She asked that no more flowers be sent to her home.

The Speichers have a 3-year-old daughter and 1-year-old son, said a family friend, who added that the children "just think their father is on a cruise. They're too young to tell them about the war."

The Speichers met at Florida State University, where he graduated in 1980 with degrees in accounting and management. He joined the Navy and spent three years as a flight instructor in the F-A-18 before transferring to a fighter squadron a year ago.

Speicher's family moved to Jacksonville in the 1970s.

At Lake Shore United Methodist Church in Jacksonville, Speicher taught Sunday school to 4- and 5-year-olds.