Family members of Sgt. Lakeshia M. Bailey bow their heads as the fallen soldier’s casket is carried under the honor guard sabres on the tarmac at Freedom Hall on Friday. Bailey, who was with the 203rd Brigade Support Battalion, died March 8 from injuries sustained in a non-combat-related vehicle rollover north of Al Kut.
By LILY GORDON - firstname.lastname@example.org
The flag-draped casket containing the body of fallen U.S. Army Sgt. Lakeshia M. Bailey returned Monday afternoon to Fort Benning.
Bailey, 23, of Columbus, and Sgt. Aaron M. Arthur, 25, of Lake City, S.C., died March 8 north of Al Kut, Iraq, of injuries sustained during a non-combat-related vehicle rollover, according to the Department of Defense. Both soldiers were heavy vehicle drivers assigned to the 203rd Brigade Support Battalion, attached to the 1st Battalion, 10th Field Artillery Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division.
Bailey’s coffin was met by more than 300 soldiers with the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team’s rear detachment unit who came to Lawson Army Airfield at noon to salute their fallen comrade.
They joined several grieving members of Bailey’s family, who held each other and sobbed as a team of six uniformed pallbearers wearing white gloves carried the casket from a small, chartered plane, under an honor guard saber arch and to a waiting hearse. The gray hearse rolled slowly from the wind-swept tarmac near Freedom Hall through a saluting corridor of 3rd Brigade soldiers. Eleven representatives from the Patriot Guard were also on hand to help escort Bailey from the airfield to Sconiers Funeral Home in Columbus.
Bailey entered the Army in February 2006 and arrived for duty at Fort Benning in June 2006.
A 2004 graduate of Spencer High School, she excelled in math and enjoyed cosmetology and home economics. In a recent interview with the Ledger-Enquirer, her younger sister, Candace Bailey, described her as “real goofy” with a contagious smile and an active social life.
Her platoon sergeant, Sgt. 1st Class Timothy Randolph, said Bailey had a gift for lifting the spirits of her fellow soldiers.
“I basically watched her grow up in the military,” Randolph said moments before the plane carrying her casket landed on post. “She was more than a soldier to me. She was like one of my kids. She was like my daughter. She always was cheerful. It’s like I got an empty spot in my heart because I’ve been in the Army 17 1/2 years and I never lost a soldier.”
A memorial for Bailey and Arthur took place Friday in Iraq. Speaking from Forward Operating Base Kalsu in Iraq during a video teleconferencing session Monday morning, 3rd Brigade Commander Col. Peter Jones offered his condolences to the families.
“In the coming days, they and their families will remain in our thoughts and our prayers,” Jones said.
Funeral services for Sgt. Lakeshia Bailey are scheduled for 1 p.m. Wednesday at the Follow Me Chapel on post.