Family and friends are remembering Marine Cpl. Keaton Coffey today after he became the most recent Oregonian to die while supporting Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.
Coffey, 22, was killed while conducting combat operations in the Helmand province, according to the Defense Department. His death came just three weeks before he was scheduled to return to the U.S., where he was assigned to the First Law Enforcement Battalion at Camp Pendleton, CA.
Family friends told FOX 12 that Coffey had attended George Fox University for a few months before deciding he wanted to join the Marines.
"Keaton was every teacher's dream," said Tim Oakley, Coffey's high school principal. "He was a hard worker, studious, conscientious, really desired to please, very responsible (and) well liked by his teachers, by his peers."
Lance Corp. Buddy Ikemoto, a former classmate, followed in his friend's footsteps and enlisted in the armed forces.
"It's pretty tragic. I mean, to all of a sudden find out that someone you looked up to so much is gone," Ikemoto said. "He was just the best friend you could ask for."
On Saturday, Coffey's parents attended a dignified transfer ceremony that took place at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, where the marine's coffin, draped with the American flag, was loaded onto an aircraft carrier.
Coffey's father is a well-known member of the Portland Fire Bureau who retired as a battalion chief but returned to work on the bureau's hazmat department.
At a church service in Damascus on Sunday, Coffey was on many people's minds. The Marine planned to get married in July.
"If Keaton were to stand here today, I would bow down to him out of respect and love for what he's done for our country," said Darrell Rasmussen, Coffey's former teacher. "He is an honor to this nation as well as to his parents."
"You just need to thank a veteran," Ikemoto said. "Because they put themselves on the line for everyone else."
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