JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (NNS) -- Thousands of people, both military and civilians, showed their respects as the remains of the first casualty of Desert Storm, Capt. Michael Scott Speicher, were brought to Naval Air Station (NAS) Jacksonville after being found in Iraq after 18 years.
The remains arrived at the NAS Jacksonville flight line Aug. 13 and were then taken by motorcade to All Saints Chapel on base, where they remained overnight for people to give their final respects for the fallen Navy pilot.
"I think his return is symbolic of the Navy's desire to never forget a lost shipmate and to always continue to pursue and find those that are missing or lost," said Rear Adm. Townsend Alexander, commander, Navy Region Southeast.
The following day the flag-draped casket left the chapel in a police escorted procession en route to Speicher's interment ceremony. During the trip the motorcade made stops at Speicher's church, his high school, the Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Wall and Cecil Field, the military base where Speicher was last stationed before the war.
"It is a very significant day," said Rear Adm. Patrick Driscoll, the official escorting officer for Speicher's remains. "I was in a squadron with Scott Speicher, and we were flying together the night he was shot down, and this is a bittersweet day for us in that we are glad that we finally have a resolution of his status and that we are bringing him home to his family, but it's also a sad day in that now we know we lost a shipmate."
Florida Gov. Charlie Crist and Jacksonville Mayor John Peyton attended a ceremony that was held at the Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Wall in Speicher's honor.
"At a time in our nation's history when we need heroes more than ever, Captain Speicher reminds us we need not look any farther than those brave Americans who serve in our armed forces. He represents the best of the best," said Crist. "I am honored to speak for almost twenty million fellow Floridians when I say we thank Captain Speicher for his commitment and his dedication to our country and our people and our freedom. We are deeply grateful for his sacrifice."
Thomas Fuller, the pastor of Lakeshore Methodist Church where Speicher taught Sunday school, was outside the church where people lined the streets to honor Speicher as the procession passed.
"I think that [Speicher] has kind of become an instrument of change," said Fuller. "I have been blessed in all the commitment the military, in recent months and days, has made in regards to never leaving anyone behind, and that is very important."
Speicher was laid to rest in a private ceremony at the Jacksonville Memorial Gardens Cemetery as his squadron, the Sunliners of VFA-81, flew overhead in a missing-man formation.
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