Father Erik Richtsteig had a message for the young boy.
“There are many things I’d like to tell Elliott that I can’t because he’s too young to understand. But I hope that the word gets to him eventually, mainly that his father loves him and his father did not abandon him. His father died doing a great, noble thing,” Richtsteig said.
Family, friends, fellow military members and others gathered Thursday for funeral services for Robbins, 31, the Weber County man who died June 30 while serving in Afghanistan. A Green Beret, he was a medic for the 10th Special Forces Group out of Fort Carson, Colorado, and he died in a non-combat related incident that remains under investigation.
Richtsteig, speaking at a funeral ceremony for Robbins ahead of interment at Ben Lomond Cemetery in North Ogden, honored Robbins’ efforts as part of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel to dismantle the terrorist threat in Afghanistan. More specifically, Richtsteig put Robbins’ death in the context of trying to help the people of Afghanistan and, as a medic, to aid his fellow soldiers.
“Elliott laid down his life. Every time he found himself on a battlefield, every time he put his own safety as secondary to treat someone who was injured, that is showing that great love,” Richtsteig said.
Though Robbins, a career military man, was born in California and had been based out of Fort Carson, he considered the Ogden area home. He graduated from Weber High School, according to former classmate Andrea Cunningham, and has surviving relatives in the area, many in North Ogden. His parents, Freeman and Adrienne Robbins, were on hand at Thursday’s ceremony, as well as son Elliott, wife Luz Victoria and many more.
Family didn’t speak publicly, but others on hand did.
“I had two (sons) deployed at the same time, one in Afghanistan, so I understand,” said Tommie Dooley of West Haven, a friend of Robbins’ father.
Preston Sant, a retired medic for the Army National Guard’s 19th Special Forces Group, attended, chiefly to show respect for a fellow soldier. He’s from North Ogden.
“He was a medic, I was a medic, so I know exactly what he went through to get there,” said Sant, wearing his dress uniform. “It’s paying respects to a fellow warrior. This is his final march to Valhalla.”
At a visitation ceremony on Wednesday at Lindquist Mortuaries‘ Ogden location, Rich Atkins of Ogden — a U.S. Air Force veteran and friend of Robbins’ father — lauded Robbins’ service. He also alluded to the uncertainty of serving in the military.
“It could be our son,” he said, noting he has a child serving in the U.S. Air Force. “You never know. Hits very close being a retired veteran.”
John Valdez of Ogden, retired from the U.S. Army, is a friend of the Robbins family through St. James, but didn’t know Elliott Robbins personally. “He was off in the military. He was gone,” Valdez said.
Still, he wanted to show support.
“When a family comes in need, we pull together. That is part of our tradition, that is our belief,” Valdez said. Robbins’ death is “very sad, but when they place themselves in harm’s way for us, we must expect there will be casualties.”
After the funeral mass at St. James, a long procession departed from the church for Ben Lomond Cemetery. The North View Fire District hoisted a giant U.S. flag along the route and U.S. flags lined much of the route through North Ogden to the cemetery, some planted in the ground, some held by well-wishers.
Among those on hand at Thursday’s ceremonies was Jennie Taylor, widow of Brent Taylor. Brent Taylor, a major in the Utah Army National Guard and mayor of North Ogden, also died while serving in Afghanistan in support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel. He was killed last November after an apparent attack by one of the Afghani special forces members he was helping train and is also buried at Ben Lomond Cemetery.
Robbins received military honors at the cemetery.