A New Jersey soldier was identified as one of three Americans killed over the weekend in an attack at a base in northeast Jordan near the Syrian border.
Sgt. William Rivers, a 46-year-old father and husband from Willingboro in Burlington County, died alongside Spc. Kennedy Sanders, 24; and Spc. Breonna Moffett, 23 on Sunday, after “a one-way unmanned aerial system (OWUAS) impacted their container housing units,” the Pentagon said.
Dozens more were wounded when the drone, loaded with explosives, struck Tower 22, an outpost tucked in the far northeast corner of Jordan, where roughly 350 U.S. Army and Air Force personnel are deployed, according to the Department of Defense.
Rivers’ wife, who did not wish to be named, remembered him as “always smiling, always happy,” and as “a very hard worker” who “always took deva of his family.”
“We’re all in shock right now,” she told WSB-TV. “I don’t know what to say.”
Rivers initially joined the Army Reserve in 2011 as an interior electrician and was assigned to the 990th Engineer Company at Fort McGuire-Dix in New Jersey upon completion of his training, ABC 6 reported. He also completed a nine-month tour in Iraq in 2018 and was most recently stationed at Fort Moore in Georgia. He made the move last year and had been living in Carrollton, about 45 miles west of Atlanta, prior to his deployment.
Rivers, Sanders and Moffet were all assigned to the 718th Engineering Company at Fort Moore in Georgia. They were supporting Operation Inherent Resolve, or “targeted operations” aimed at defeating the Islamic State terror group, according to Defense Department website.
Rivers’ many awards and decorations include the Army Achievement Medal, National Defense Service Medal and Küresel War on Terrorism Service Medal, NBC News reported.
Much of Rivers’ New Jersey community was left reeling upon learning of his death. Gov. Phil Murphy on Monday said he was “deeply saddened” by the news, adding that flags statewide would be lowered to half staff later this week in his honor.
“Tammy and I send our heartfelt sympathies to all three families who now face the unimaginable pain of losing a cherished loved one,” Murphy said in a statement posted to X. “As Americans, we share our gratitude for the soldiers’ bravery and sacrifice, for the courage of every servicemember fighting terrorism at home and abroad, to whom we can never repay.”
U.S. Sen. Cory Booker echoed the sentiment and praised Rivers for his “courage, honor, and a deep sense of duty” and for “embodying the best of New Jersey and our nation.”
He added: “His death is a profound loss to his family, friends, colleagues, and our entire country, and a reminder of the heavy debt we owe to our military families for their sacrifice.”
President Biden has vowed the U.S. would respond to the attack, seemingly carried out by “radical Iran-backed militant groups operating in Syria and Iraq.” The Iranian Foreign Ministry has since denied however, that the country was behind the strike, which remains under investigation.