Forty-five minutes before President Barack Obama landed at McCarran International Airport, the remains of fallen Marine Cpl. Jon-Luke Bateman arrived at Nellis Air Force Base, where his grief-struck family waited.
The 22-year-old Pahrump Valley High School graduate is Nevada's first death this year during military operations in Afghanistan.
It's the 78th death with ties to Nevada to occur overseas in the war on terrorism since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
A private jet carrying Bateman's flag-draped casket arrived at 5:47 p.m. Wednesday and parked in front of about 10 family members who stood on the Nellis tarmac flanked by a platoon of airmen volunteers, the base color guard and seven white-gloved Marines.
Family members including his mother, Laura Allen, stepfather Tony Allen, sister Kristin Nunley and brother Paul Bateman stood in silence next to the casket after it was lowered from the chartered jet from Dover Air Force Base, Del.
The Marine honor guard then loaded the casket into a hearse waiting to deliver it to a Pahrump mortuary with a motorcade led by Nevada Highway Patrol cars and veterans on motorcycles from the Nevada Patriot Guard.
Bateman died Jan. 15 while trying to rescue another Marine involved in an electric generator accident in Helmand province, Afghanistan.
Both Bateman and Lance Cpl. Kenneth E. Cochran, 20, of Wilder, Idaho, were killed in the noncombat accident, which is under investigation by Marine Corps officials.
The ceremony that marked Bateman's return to Nevada soil came 24 hours after Commander in Chief Obama lauded the U.S. military's achievements in his State of the Union address, saying they "are a testament to the courage, selflessness and teamwork of America's armed forces."
"The Taliban's momentum has been broken, and some troops in Afghanistan have begun to come home," Obama said in his speech.
A memorial service for Bateman will be held in Pahrump today, and he will be buried Friday at the Southern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Boulder City.
Contact reporter Keith Rogers at email@example.com or 702-383-0308.