Staff Sgt. Austin Bieren’s ashes were returned home with honors on Friday.
Flags lined the main street through Umatilla in honor of the Air Force security forces airman, who died of apparent natural causes on March 28 while on active duty in Syria.
Bieren, 25, grew up in Umatilla, and his family has been an active part of the community there. On Friday friends and family stood in support of his wife, Rachel Bieren, as she received the wooden box containing his ashes at her home.
Members of the Patriot Guard Riders also stood at attention in a flag line around the home, while other members of the motorcycle group rode in the procession from the Pasco Airport to Bieren’s home.
Gary David, Patriot Guard Riders ride captain for the Hermiston area, said that the group hoped the family was comforted by the support.
“Of course, it’s our honor to do these for our military veterans,” he said.
The group will also provide a flag line for Bieren’s funeral service on Saturday. “We come from all walks of life, here for one purpose: to honor the veteran and his family,” David said.
Along with the Patriot Guard Riders, vehicles from the Umatilla Police Department, Pasco Police Department and Umatilla Rural Fire Protection District helped form the honorary procession. Umatilla Police Chief Darla Huxel and Umatilla Fire Chief Steve Potts were among those who accompanied Bieren’s remains all the way from Pasco, and fire trucks were lined up along Umatilla’s main street, lights flashing, as a mark of respect.
Bieren joined the Air Force right out of high school, and his mother said that was what he had always wanted to do with his life. He deployed three times. He is the second member of the U.S. military to die in Syria while supporting Operation Inherent Resolve against the terrorist group ISIS.
Bieren was preceded in death by his twin brother Thomas Bieren, and leaves behind his wife Rachel Bieren, mother Tracy Finck, stepfather Jody Finck, father JT Bieren, stepmother Amber Bieren, sister Brianne Bieren, nephew Jaren Journot and extended family.
A celebration of life for Bieren, open to the public, will begin at 1 p.m. Saturday in the Umatilla High School gymnasium, 1460 Seventh Street, Umatilla.
Contact Jade McDowell at email@example.com or 541-564-4536.