An American Hero Comes Home, at Last

Troy Gilbert in 2002 on the flight line at Incirlik air base, Turkey, where he was helping enforce the no-fly zone over northern Iraq

Since that day a decade ago, Major Gilbert had come home twice, but only in bits and pieces. In December, his full body will finally be laid to rest. He will be the first person, according to the records of Arlington National Cemetery, ever to be buried in the nation’s most hallowed grounds three times.

Bella was a 3-year-old toddler bouncing on her backyard trampoline when the family learned her father had gone down 10 years before. In October, she was a 13-year old teenager playing in a volleyball tournament when her mother got the phone call that ended the family’s quest. “They’ve found Troy,” Air Force General Robin Rand, a family friend, told her from a quiet corner of the Air Force Academy’s Falcon Stadium (where the Air Force football team was beating Navy, 28-14). “Did they get all of him?” she asked from inside her SUV in San Antonio, where the family now lives. “Because you know it’s just never been over.”

“All of him,” Rand told her. In fact, her late husband and the father of their five children had been placed aboard a C-130 cargo plane that had been standing by in Baghdad, and was headed for Germany, and ultimately home, within hours of his recovery.

At twilight on October 3, Major Troy Gilbert landed at Dover aboard a C-17, where his family and top Air Force officials welcomed him home. Included in the solemn gathering was James, the Air Force secretary, as well as four-star General David Goldfein, who as chief of staff is the service’s top officer. A decade ago, as a one-star brigadier general, he had led the investigation into Gilbert’s crash. Six airmen in battle fatigues, combat boots and white gloves slowly moved his casket from inside the cavernous cargo plane to a waiting hearse.

After nearly a decade, the Gilberts are finally able to awaken from their nightmare. “It’s really hard to go through three funerals,” said his mother, who was at Dover when her only son finally came home. “I know that.” Even so, she is looking forward to saying her final goodbye during his third burial at Arlington, on Dec. 19 at 1 p.m. “It is going to be,” she says, “a joyous day.”

Courtesy of Rhonda Jimmerson

Full article: An American Hero Comes Home, at Last | TIME

It’s a long article, but what a story. Heartbreaking, really. I am glad they were able to finally retrieve all of his remains.

God speed, sir.

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