A U.S. Army soldier originally from St. Augustine was killed on base in Alaska by a brown bear.
He was identified by his family as Staff Sgt. Seth Plant. He was 30 years old.
According to a news release from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, the soldier was training with a small group when the attack happened Tuesday.
A spokesperson with Alaska Wildlife Troopers said another soldier was also hurt but is expected to be OK.
News4JAX spoke with Plant’s family on Thursday. They were devastated. They said that Staff Sgt. Plant had a lot friends in St. Augustine and that his father traveled to Alaska to bring him home.
“Definitely our hero,” said Staff Sgt. Plant’s mother, Joy Plant, said of her son.
Joy Plant can’t help but smile when she speaks about her son.
“He would tell you he’s the favorite child,” she said.
The only boy and the youngest of three, his family said, he knew just how much he was loved.
“He was the life of the party,” Joy Plant said. “He’s loved by everybody in the community, in his family, in the military.”
Staff Sgt. Plant’s uncle, Army veteran Barry Carlton, said his nephew always knew he wanted to serve his country.
“He wanted to do everything I did. He followed in my footsteps and joined the Army, became a paratrooper,” he said. “Ten years after I was in Afghanistan, he went to Afghanistan, and he served honorably.”
His family said he spent 12 years in the Army, serving a year in Afghanistan and spending the better part of the past year in Alaska. His sister said he was an outdoorsman who loved spending time in the Last Frontier.
“Just being outside all the time,” said Staff Sgt. Plant’s sister, Gini Solano. “He’d sit outside and just sit around, have a glass of bourbon.”
Carlton said his nephew dreamed of becoming a member of the elite Special Forces -- the Green Berets -- and was well on his way.
“He was a true patriot,” Carlton said.
But then the family got the news every loved one dreads.
“You never know what that feeling is like until you see those military men standing in front of you and telling you things that you don’t want to hear,” Staff Sgt. Plant’s mother said.
She’s now joining the ranks of those whose loved ones have made the ultimate sacrifice.
“I know what other parents have gone through. I know what spouses have gone through,” she said. “I feel their pain now, and it’s very devastating.”
Staff Sgt. Plant leaves behind a legacy of service, many friends and his family -- a sacrifice made doing what he loved and in the service of others.
“He has so many brothers that we couldn’t count them all,” his mother said. “He loved his family.”
The family said that he will be buried in full military honors and that they want him brought home to St. Augustine and laid to rest in St. Augustine National Cemetary. They said they’ve heard the cemetery is full, but they’re hoping someone might be able to help find a place for him there.
A GoFundMe has been set up for the Plant family to help with the funeral, memorial, travel, and costs from time off work.
Alaska Department of Fish and Game investigating
According to investigators, a den was located nearby the area where the attack took place, with two brown bear cubs present.
The area where the attacked occurred is said to be a remote portion of Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson. It has been closed to the public for all recreational activity.
“From everything we know so far, based on the scene investigation and information from other responding agencies, this appears to be a defensive attack by a female bear protecting her cubs,” Cyndi Wardlow, southcentral regional supervisor, said in a prepared statement.
Since the attack, efforts have continued to locate the bear, the department says.