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Procession held for fallen Riverside Airman

A procession was held for a local Air Force hero who died tragically last month in a crash off the coast of Japan.

Major Luke Unrath was killed along with seven other U.S. Service Members during a training exercise.

U.S. Air Force Pilot Major Luke Unrath was a Riverside native who was not only a beloved husband and brother, the 34-year-old was also a loving son to his parents Gregg and Nora, and a hero to our country.

Last month, Major Unrath, along with seven other service members were killed when their CV-22 Osprey crashed during a training exercise off the coast of Japan.

In a statement, his parents said their son chose his path and career because he wanted to help people.

“Mostly I felt for Luke’s mom, because I’m a mom,” said gold star mother Ronda Gilbert.

Gilbert, who is also a Riverside resident says she understands the deep heartache major Unrath’s family must be feeling.

Four years ago, Gilbert’s son, Air Force Colonel Ronald Eric Gilbert, died suddenly from a medical emergency.
The 43-year-old father and husband was an F-22 fighter pilot who, like Major Unrath, dedicated his life to serving our country.

“I know the pain and I know the heartache of being a mom and losing your child, especially an adult child. You have lots of memories and things to cherish,” Gilbert said.

Gilbert says this type of loss is unbearable for loved ones, and the best thing the community can do is come out and show support for the family and that’s exactly what is happening.

“It’s important to pause and reflect and to remember that our freedom isn’t free,” Laura Herzog said.

Herzog is the founder of

She works alongside the casualty officers who serve the families of fallen military heroes who die during active duty. Herzog helped coordinate major Unrath’s procession from LAX to his hometown of Riverside where he will be laid to rest in the coming days.

“So I was able to work with local law enforcement agencies, firefighters, first responders, that will be out along the route to pay respects and to pay honor to Luke and his family for his sacrifice,” Herzog said.

Gilbert says it’s the type of homecoming every American hero deserves, a way to say thank you for your service and also be there for the family in their grief.

“We call ourselves survivors of military loss and it’s been very very helpful to have other people who are in similar circumstances that can just listen,” Gilbert said.

Major Unrath was escorted by his brother who is an active duty member of the Air Force.

Source: NBC Los Angeles

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