FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. – The remains of a U.S. Army paratrooper arrived back in Fort Bragg on Saturday, a week after he died in Afghanistan.
Staff Sgt. Ian McLaughlin, 29, of Newport News, Virginia, was killed Jan. 11 by an improvised explosive device. Pfc. Miguel Angel Villalon, 21, of Joliet, Illinois, was killed in the same incident.
Both soldiers were part of the 82nd Airborne Division.
A chaplain prayed and a family member sobbed after the plane carrying McLaughlin’s casket landed at Fort Bragg’s Pope Army Airfield.
Tarah McLaughlin’s fingers traced her husband’s flag-draped coffin before she pressed two fingers to her lips then pressed her fingers to the coffin.
Hundreds of other paratroopers lined the roadway to salute as the hearse was escorted away.
Also helping to escort McLaughlin from Fort Bragg to a Fayetteville funeral home were more than 50 motorcycles and about 65 members of the North Carolina Patriot Guard Riders.
The Patriot Guard’s purpose is to show honor and respect for fallen soldiers, veterans and first responders, said Steve “Scooper” Havens, assistant district captain for the Sandhills Division of the Patriot Guard.
“They will never be forgotten, whether they’re in the service for a week or they’ve been in for 40 years,” Havens said. “They will always be remembered.”
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A statement from the 82nd Airborne Division last week said McLaughlin’s wife and four children are among the survivors.
His obituary states a funeral will full military honors will be held Tuesday at Fort Bragg.
McLaughlin’s obituary says he joined the Army in 2012 as a heavy construction equipment operator.
His first assignment was at Fort Hood, Texas, where he met and married his wife, his obituary states.
He graduated Airborne School in 2016 and was later assigned to the 307th Brigade Engineer Battalion at Fort Bragg. In 2018, he became a jumpmaster.
Fort Bragg officials said McLaughlin’s deployment to Afghanistan was his first.
McLaughlin’s awards and decorations include the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star Medal.
Maj. Gen. James Mingus, commander of the 82nd Airborne Division, said McLaughlin and Villalon represented the best of the nation and Army.
“They went when our nation called and paid the ultimate sacrifice,” Mingus said last week. “They will be honored, mourned, but never forgotten and we are committed to taking care of their families for life.”
More than 2,400 U.S. service members have been killed in Afghanistan. Last year was the deadliest for U.S. service members since 2014, with 23 American troops killed.
Contributing: The Associated Press
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fort Bragg soldier: Remains of paratrooper Ian McLaughlin return home