DOVER, Del. – It was a clear evening sky with a few fluffy clouds and a cool, heavy breeze, punctuated by the far-off roar of jet engines.

The green and white Boeing 747 cargo aircraft rested on the tarmac, cooling after an overseas flight, massive against the vast airfield.

Its rear door opened as three soldiers stood in the aircraft facing outward. In a transfer case lay Army Spc. Wade A. Slack, 21, of Waterville, killed Thursday by “indirect fire” from insurgents in Jaghatu, Afghanistan.

Slack, who specialized in defusing explosives with the Army’s 707th Ordnance Battalion, had come home to the United States, touching down about 7:30 p.m. Saturday.

The military had brought his remains here, to this transfer station, a windy airfield near the shore of the Delaware Bay. The next stop is Slack’s final resting place.

A blue van pulled slowly toward the jet, carrying Slack’s family. Attending the ceremony were Slack’s father, Alan Slack; his mother; his sisters, Meghan, Lauren and Allison, and his brothers, Jesse, Andrew and Jonathan.

“The ceremony was dignified,” Alan Slack said later. “It was incredible. It was an extremely emotional experience.

“These people are going out of their way to make things dignified, and to honor him for his sacrifice. I can’t say enough about the care and thoughtfulness and honor that was part and parcel to this whole thing.”

Seven military men walked in formation toward the transfer vehicle, a white van that soon carried the transfer case. The soldiers, who wore camouflage fatigues, white gloves and black berets, stopped and stood at attention under the massive wing of the plane.

Three men, including an Air Force chaplain, walked to the transfer case, pausing to pray. The men marched with the transfer case to the transfer vehicle. A three-second salute.

Among the men were Sgt. James Cribbett and Sgt. 1st Class Michael Burns, who accompanied Slack’s body home.

“Sgt. Cribbett was Wade’s very good friend, and quite a comfort to us,” said Alan Slack, a veterinarian at the New England Animal Hospital in Waterville.

Cribbett served with Wade Slack in Afghanistan, and planned to speak with Slack’s family late Saturday night about their duties in Afghanistan.

“Wade’s unit moved heaven and earth to let James Cribbett be there,” Slack said. “James’ words to me were, ‘Wade would have done this for me. I was not going to let him come home alone.’ “

He did not.

The transfer case was placed in the van as the sun set.

Its brake lights glowed red against the gray tarmac. Ten soldiers saluted and the van pulled slowly away, at walking speed. The soldiers followed in formation.


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