The body of an Oklahoma serviceman killed in a rocket attack on a U.S. base in Iraq has been returned to his home state, welcomed by a small collection of mourners whose gathering was restricted by efforts to contain the coronavirus.
Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt joined the family of the late Air National Guardsman Staff Sgt. Marshal D. Roberts at a transfer ceremony Wednesday at the Tulsa Air National Guard Base, the Tulsa World reported.
Roberts, 28, was one of two American servicemen killed on March 11 in a rocket attack at Camp Taji in Iraq. Roberts had been stationed in Iraq for two months.
"Our fallen comrades have a legacy that will never be forgotten," said the commanding general of the coalition.
“We just wanted to pay our respects and honor this Oklahoman who paid the ultimate sacrifice. It’s the least we can do,” Stitt said, adding that it was a reminder of the “real consequences” of warfare.
Stitt said it was emotional seeing the Owasso man's wife, Kristie Roberts, who is also a member of the 138th Fighter Wing, as well as his mother and his 8-year-old daughter, Paityn.
Roberts’ casket was later taken to a Broken Arrow funeral home. The procession was led by about 20 Tulsa Police Department motorcycle officers, with a host of law enforcement representatives from several agencies following behind.
Ron Moseley was one of roughly 50 Patriot Guard riders who also escorted Roberts' body. He said he was “thrilled” by the turnout.
“We just want to let them know there’s still people who care,” he added.
Moseley said all the riders were instructed to comply with COVID-19 protocol, including social distancing rules, adding that he even brought “extra hand sanitizer."
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, or death.
Stitt said the family would hold a private burial service, and that a public memorial would take place at a later date because the state was still taking efforts to limit the spread of the coronavirus. The state had reported 164 infections and five deaths as of Thursday.