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A high school in Savannah, Ga., mourns the loss of a soldier and friend


President Joe Biden will be in Dover, Del., today to attend what is called the dignified transfer of the remains of three U.S. service members recently killed in a drone attack in Jordan. One of those soldiers, Sergeant Breonna Moffett, was remembered yesterday by her high school's junior ROTC group. Georgia Public Broadcasting's Benjamin Payne attended the ceremony.

BENJAMIN PAYNE, BYLINE: It was five years ago that Breonna Moffett marched alongside the JROTC at Windsor Forest High School.


UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Present arms. Raise colors.

PAYNE: On a sunny but somber day outside school, the corps current cadets raised the American flag to half-staff in her honor. Lieutenant Colonel Michael Busteed was Moffett's JROTC instructor. He addressed a crowd of students, staff and family members of Moffett.


MICHAEL BUSTEED: The minute you met Breonna, you knew she exuded that she was a very kind, loving, bright soul who cared about everyone around her.

PAYNE: Standing next to a colorful wreath of flowers and a graduation photo of Moffett, Busteed remembered his former student as one of his go-to cadets.


BUSTEED: When things weren't going right, if they were kind of faltering, I knew I could go to Breonna. She'd carry that ball over the goal line. We were having trouble getting our military ball organized, she took the lead, made it happen.

PAYNE: And she made lasting friendships. Busteed says that even after Moffett graduated, she would occasionally return to help cadets learn their drill and prepare for JROTC competitions.


BUSTEED: I tell my students you need to choose your friends wisely. They can either bring you forward or pull you back. And everyone that chose Breonna as a friend was brought forward.

PAYNE: Moffett died at just 23 years old but left an indelible mark on the school community, says Derrick Butler. He was principal of the high school when she attended.


DERRICK BUTLER: She had a disposition about her very early on that when I saw her in the hall, I almost saluted her because she was very serious and very disciplined, and she carried with her those core values that I know her family instilled in her.

PAYNE: Core values, he said, like leadership, which she exhibited as a drum major for the high school marching band.


PAYNE: Moffett's former band director, Steven Johnson, also honored her at the gathering, not through words, but music, playing his trombone to end the ceremony for Sergeant Breonna Moffett.

For NPR News, I'm Benjamin Payne in Savannah, Ga.

(SOUNDBITE OF TROMBONE PLAYING) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Benjamin Payne is a contributing reporter and floating host at KUNR. He is currently pursuing his master's degree at the University of Nevada, Reno's Reynolds School of Journalism, where he also works as a teaching assistant.