TULSA, Oklahoma (Tulsa World ) — Marshal D. Roberts has become a common namesake in the Tulsa-area community.
The 28-year-old Air National Guard technical sergeant from Owasso was killed a year ago this week while deployed overseas, and his legacy continues to live on through the inspirational efforts of others.
U.S. Rep. Kevin Hern, for example, introduced legislation in October to rename the Owasso post office after Roberts. Three months later, State Sens. J.J. Dossett, D-Owasso, and Marty Quinn, R-Claremore, filed a bill to rebrand a section of Oklahoma 20 in honor of the fallen airman.
On Sunday, the Oklahoma Air National Guard rounded out a commemorative trifecta by dedicating a facility at the Tulsa Air National Guard Base in remembrance of Roberts, who died in the line of indirect enemy fire while stationed at Camp Taji in Iraq on March 11, 2020.
“We really wanted that (Roberts’ sacrifice) to mean something in this community,” said Maj. Gen. Michael C. Thompson after unveiling the base’s new TSgt Marshal D. Roberts Engineering Installation Complex.
“We don’t want anyone to forget who he was and what his service represented, so … when people drive by this building, they’re going to know what this means.”
The Guard also posthumously presented Roberts’ wife, Kristie, with a Purple Heart and Meritorious Service Medal, which she accepted on behalf of her late husband.
“You hear that the Guard is a family,” Kristie said. “Just from the hours after the notification until now, they’ve been there, and this (Sunday’s ceremony) really just plays into that. They want to make sure that Marshal’s never forgotten, and they’ve stayed true to their word from that moment, and they still do.”
Serving with the 219th Engineering Installation Squadron, Roberts was supporting Operation Inherent Resolve about 20 miles north of Baghdad when his unit was hit with a rocket attack. The engagement claimed Roberts’ life and that of another American soldier, along with a U.K. service member and two Iraqi Security Forces members. Fourteen others were wounded, including Tech. Sgt. Ariel E. White.
White, who served alongside Roberts in Tulsa’s 138th Fighter Wing, was medically evacuated to an Army hospital in Germany following the ambush. She also received a Purple Heart and Army Achievement Medal over the weekend.
“It’s very bittersweet,” White said. “I’m proud of my service, and I’m very happy my family and friends get to see this side of me, but the occasion, I wish it was different, because there’s a whole other family that isn’t celebrating as much today.”
While seated on stage, White occasionally glanced at the empty chair next to her, where a large portrait of Roberts sat as a reminder of the friend and mentor she will always hold close to her heart.
When asked what she would say to Roberts now, White replied, “… Definitely that I wish he was still here … and that I felt very lucky to call him one of my friends. I thought he was like one of the cool kids, and so the fact that he wanted to hang out with me, I just thought he was a great guy.”
The valor shared by the two technical sergeants came full circle when Maj. Blair Austin took to the stage and remarked on their dedication in serving their country.
“As a volunteer force, we gain strength from brave women like Ariel White and heroic men like Marshal Roberts,” Blair said. “We recognize our warriors, their families, their teammates, their units and their community who continue this strong heritage of honor.”
Sunday’s gathering played host to a ceremonial presentation of colors, taps, a three-volley salute, and an F-16 flyover.
Guests included Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr., Hern and Oklahoma Lt. Gov. Matt Pinnell, along with Owasso Mayor Bill Bush and Councilman Doug Bonebrake.
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