The remains of the two fallen young Palauan soldiers in the United States military arrived home this week to their families for funeral and burial.
Kyle Steven, 30 years of age, who died in Hawaii, and Airman 1st Class Keija Xavier Hilt, 20, who died in Okinawa, were honored with a water salute upon landing at the Palau International Airport.
Airman 1st Class Keija Xavier Hilt, 20, of the 18th Logistics Readiness Squadron at Kadena Air Base, Okinawa was reported by the US Military Stars and Strips news to have died after a snorkeling incident in Okinawa. According to the news reports, he and two other people were snorkeling when they were swept out to sea. Despite rescue efforts, he was found on the fifth day of the search.
Not much information was available for Kyle Steven, although he, too, received a water salute upon arrival.
Minister of State Aitaro said he was reaching out to the US Embassy for more information. “Normally, we are informed when fallen Palauan soldiers are flown home, but we were not informed this time. Hopefully, we can sort this out soon,” stated Minister Aitaro when contacted.
Per capita, Palau has the highest number of citizens in the US military compared to other states of the United States.
There’s a growing veteran population, with a number of retired Palauans from the US military choosing to come back home despite the lack of US Veterans Affairs service on the island.