ATLANTA — Family, friends and military colleagues are gathering in Georgia as funerals begin for three Army Reserve soldiers killed last month in a drone attack on a U.S. base in Jordan.
The first funeral service was scheduled Tuesday morning for Staff Sgt. William Jerome Rivers at a Baptist church in Carrollton, west of Atlanta.
The 46-year-old reservist and Pennsylvania native, who is survived by his wife and son in Georgia, served in uniform for more than a decade after enlisting as an electrician. The Army said his overseas deployments included a nine-month tour in Iraq in 2018. His obituary from a local funeral home called him a warm-hearted family man with a “gentle demeanor and a fierce and determined personality.”
Following the church service, Rivers is to be buried at the Georgia National Cemetery for military veterans in Canton, just northwest of Atlanta.
A Jan. 28 drone strike on a U.S. military outpost in Jordan killed Rivers as well as Sgt. Kennedy Sanders and Sgt. Breonna Moffett, who all received their ranks in posthumous promotions. They were assigned to the Army Reserve’s 926th Engineer Battalion, 926th Engineer Brigade, based at Fort Moore in west Georgia.
President Joe Biden met with the families of the fallen soldiers when their remains were returned to U.S. soil earlier this month at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware.
Meanwhile, friends, former classmates and co-workers have gathered to remember the slain soldiers while awaiting their final homecoming to Georgia.
In Waycross, where 24-year-old Sanders worked at a pharmacy and helped coach children’s basketball and soccer teams, residents gathered at a downtown park for a moment of silence shortly after the overseas attack. Her funeral is scheduled Saturday at Ware County Middle School.
Arrangements in Savannah were still pending for Moffett, who turned 23 barely a week before she died. Since then, she has been honored with a ceremony at Windsor Forest High School, where she was a drum major and JROTC cadet before graduating in 2019. A candlelight vigil was held by Moffett’s employer, United Cerebral Palsy of Georgia, where she helped teach cooking and other skills to people with disabilities.
The deaths were the first U.S. fatalities blamed on Iran-backed militia groups after months of intensified attacks on American forces in the region since the Israel-Hamas war began in October.
More than 40 troops were also injured in the drone attack at Tower 22, a secretive U.S. military desert outpost that enables U.S. forces to infiltrate and quietly leave Syria.
Bynum reported from Savannah, Georgia.