Body of fallen soldier arrives in Hammond
HAMMOND - Family members, officers and soldiers welcomed home the body of CW4 George Wayne Griffin Jr. as he arrived at the Hammond guard airbase via plane Saturday afternoon.
Police and patriot guard riders lined up with American flags in hand on the grounds of the airbase. Hammond residents also lined the streets to welcome him home as police escorted him through town to be transferred to the Brandon G. Thompson Funeral Home.
"You know, when you go away, you don't expect it, but you know it can happen," said Kim Walker. "These guys were on a training incident. It's just very hard and I pray for his family and just hope they felt the love and support of their community as they came through today."
He is the first of four fallen Louisiana National Guard soldiers to return to Louisiana. Griffin and three soldiers based out of Hammond were with seven Marines from North Carolina on a helicopter that crashed off Florida's Panhandle during a nighttime training mission.
The City of Hammond is adorned with American flags in shop windows and along sidewalks. Many still fly at half-mast.
"They go to church with us, they shop with us, they do business with us," said Robby Miller. "They're part of our family just like any other member of the community here."
Griffin served for 21 years in the military. His service included two tours in Iraq in 2004-2005 and 2008-2009. He also served during Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Isaac. He had logged more than 6,000 flight hours, including more than 1,000 combat hours.
A wake is set for Sunday and funeral services are set for Monday morning with a burial later in Lafayette.
Griffin leaves behind a wife and children.