‘Grateful I had him for 30 years’: Local family looks back 1 year after son killed by bear on Alaska Army base

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – This week marked one year since Northeast Florida native U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Seth Plant was killed in a bear attack on a base in Alaska. He was 30 years old.

According to Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Plant was training with a small group when the attack happened.

His tight-knit family was devastated by the loss of their only son and little brother who grew up in St. Augustine. They told News4JAX they’re finding solace in memories, friends, faith and how Seth lived his life.

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Mike Plant now wears his son Seth’s dog tags.

“The one thing that you turn the grief into is gratitude, being grateful I had him for 30 years,” he said. “Being grateful that I had the honor to call him my son.”

Through a breeze at his grave or a shadow in a photograph, he recognizes signs of Seth everywhere.

“It’s just little signs that I know that God allows us to see to let us know that he is near,” he said. “All our loved ones are near.”

Staff Sgt. Plant served 12 years in the Army, surviving a tour in Afghanistan and spending most of his last year stationed in Anchorage.

‘He could steal your heart’: Family, friends say goodbye to soldier killed by bear in Alaska

“He was blown up twice, and one time four Taliban jumped out in front of him and shot up the place...and it didn’t touch him,” Mike Plant said. “He told me...he said, ‘Dad, war can’t kill me, but it’ll be something stupid.’ And I said, ‘Well Seth, let’s just hope not.’”

Seth was not killed by an enemy combatant, but by a brown bear during training.

His mother Joy said he dreamed of being a soldier from a young age. After the attack on 9/11, he was determined to serve.

“He knew he was a soldier, and he had to do whatever he had to do,” she said. “But he also knew God, and he knew where he was going. He was very confident with that.”

His family is proud that he lived out his passion to serve and left a mark on others in the process.

“When this happened, I got messages from soldiers all over the world....’I’ve served with your son. Let me tell you about your son....I got hurt, he visited me’...all this stuff” his father said.

“Things that we didn’t know about. He didn’t share a lot of that,” his mother said. “Because he thought, well that’s what you’re supposed to do,” Mike Plant said.

The messages and support have buoyed them in a difficult time.

“For weeks, our family never left our side,” Joy Plant said. “That was really important. Friends and everybody, you know, just kept coming, the food kept coming. Sometimes we take for granted the people that we know, but they’re there in your life for a reason.”

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“I found out I was human,” Mike Plant said. “I had to learn how to receive because I gave so much.”

They’ve also taken solace in other Gold Star families.

“It’s helping,” Joy said. “It helps to talk about. There are still tears, even after 14 years, 20 years…there are still tears.”

There are also memories shared of a life well-lived, friends, who gathered at a memorial Wednesday, and each other to live for.

Seth’s family has also started a blog in his memory and they’re planning to start a non-profit focusing on getting families outdoors, which was a passion of his, as well as safety training when it comes to wildlife.

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I-TEAM and general assignment reporter