WAVERLY, Ohio (AP) — Hundreds of people lined a road in southern Ohio to honor a soldier killed in what’s been described as a friendly fire airstrike in Afghanistan.
People lined sections of U.S. 23 on Saturday as a procession escorted the body of Army Spc. Justin Helton, 25, of Beaver, Ohio, to a funeral home in Waverly. The Patriot Guard Riders, law-enforcement officers and veterans groups escorted the hearse south to Waverly from Rickenbacker Airport in Columbus.
Helton was one of five soldiers who died June 9 in Gaza Village, Afghanistan, while serving as part of a joint security operation in southern Afghanistan. The Pentagon said Helton was assigned to the 18th Ordnance Company, 192nd Ordnance Battalion, 52nd Ordnance Group of Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
Helton’s cousin, Mindy Helton, said shortly after the family was informed of his death that it was Helton’s first deployment and that he was engaged to be married.
“He was a great boy, so full of life and outgoing,” she said. “He loved hunting and the outdoors.”
Visitation was scheduled Sunday at Eastern High School in Beaver, about a two-hour drive south of Columbus. Helton attended the high school, where he played on the baseball team.
The funeral is scheduled for 11 a.m. Monday at the school, with burial in Germany Cemetery in Beaver.