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Top U.S. officials attend dignified transfer honoring three soldiers killed in Jordan

From left, Sgt. Kennedy Sanders, Sgt. William Jerome, and Sgt. Breonna Moffett. Associated Press/U.S. Army

Top U.S. officials attend dignified transfer honoring three soldiers killed in Jordan

President Joe Biden, First Lady Jill Biden, and U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin on Friday attended the transfer of the service members’ remains. They will join the grieving families of Sgts. William Jerome Rivers, Kennedy Ladon Sanders, and Breonna Alexsondria Moffett at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware. The Army Reserve has posthumously promoted Sanders and Moffett from the rank of specialist to sergeant. All three died last weekend in Jordan in a Jan. 29 drone strike launched by Iran-backed militants.

What is a dignified transfer? The ritual honors service members of any branch of the U.S. military who died abroad while serving their country. The remains of the fallen military members returned to the United States at Dover, and members of their service carried their flag-draped transfer case from the aircraft to a vehicle bound for the mortuary facility. A senior ranking officer of the individual’s service branch presided over the transfer.

Who were the service members? All three service members were from Georgia and were assigned to the U.S. Army Reserve’s 718th Engineer Company based in Fort Moore, Ga. They were at the Tower 22 base in Jordan as a part of Operation Inherent Resolve against the Islamic State group, or ISIS, Austin said Thursday.

  • Rivers, 46, was from Carrollton, Ga. He served as an interior electrician and received the Army Achievement Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, and the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal. Rivers joined the Army Reserve in 2011, according to the U.S. Defense Department.

  • Sanders, 24, was from Waycross, Ga. She joined the Army Reserve in 2019 as a horizontal construction engineer. Her parents told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that Sanders worked as an assistant basketball coach at a local middle school when she was home from the reserves.

  • Moffett, 23, was from Savannah, Ga. She also joined the Army Reserve in 2019 as a horizontal construction engineer. She was the second woman in her family to join the military, her mother Francine Moffett told CNN.

What have officials said? On Jan. 29, Biden vowed to respond to the strikes. Austin on Thursday said American forces would launch attacks against the group known as the Islamic Resistance in Iraq, which claimed responsibility for the deadly strike. “They risked their lives and lost their lives to keep their fellow Americans safe from global terrorists,” Austin said.

Dig deeper: Read Marc LiVecche’s column in WORLD Opinions about how the U.S. response to Iran’s proxy forces’ attack should be strong but also smart.

Lauren Canterberry

Lauren Canterberry is a reporter for WORLD. She graduated from the World Journalism Institute and the University of Georgia with a degree in journalism, both in 2017. She worked as a local reporter in Texas and now lives in Georgia with her husband.

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