POSTED: 2:02 p.m. HST, Aug 19, 2012
LAST UPDATED: 1:02 a.m. HST, Aug 20, 2012
The body of a helicopter gunner from Schofield Barracks killed in Afghanistan returned to U.S. soil Sunday.
An Army carry team took the flag-draped case containing the remains of Spc. Richard A. Essex off a transport plane at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware.
Essex, 23, is from Kelseyville, Calif. He was one of seven U.S. troops killed when a Black Hawk helicopter from a Schofield 25th Infantry Combat Aviation Brigade crashed in Kandahar Province, Afghanistan on Thursday. Three Afghan soldiers and a translator also died in the crash.
The Santa Rosa Press-Democrat reported that Essex's parents, Marion and Brett Hopkins, of Kelseyville, flew to Delaware to meet the plane.
The family plans initially to hold a private service. A public military service will be held at 11 a.m., Sept. 1 at Kelseyville High School, Principal Matt Cockerton told the newspaper.
"He was a nice kid. A real positive kid," said Cockerton. "He was back here last year doing a recruiting assignment. He was very proud of what he'd accomplished."
Mayme Dyslin, Essex's aunt, told the Lake County News in California that her nephew was a "laid-back kid" who never caused problems.
"He was just a free spirit," she said.
The soldier played the bass guitar and was an artist and a published poet, Dyslin told the newspaper.
"He said he was doing good and he would be home in November," she said.