It was a scene of sorrow at the James Spriggs Payne Airfield in Monrovia yesterday with many bursting into tears when the remains of the late Corporal Sheriff Ousmane of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) arrived in the country for burial. His widow Fatim Sheriff, and Defense Ministry family were reduced to tears on receiving the first Liberian combat soldier to be killed in active duty since the restructuring of the AFL in 2006.
Corporal Ousmane met his untimely death on May 3 from multiple mortar shell attacks by Malian rebels on a UN peacekeeping mission in sector West, Timbuktu.
Colleagues as his wife and family weep
Enlisted into the AFL on March 8, 2008, Cpl. Ousmane completed his Initial Entry Training on April 26, 2008 and his Advanced Individual Training on May 23, the same year.
The late soldier's remains were flown into the country in a United Nations plane escorted by a delegation from Mali. Upon arrival, the UN flag, which was placed on his casket, was removed and turned over to his widow and replaced by the Liberian flag.
The Director of Public Affairs at the Ministry of National Defense, Willette Monger, described the late soldier as a great loss to the ministry and the country.
"This is a very sad home-going of Corporal Sheriff Ousmane because we at the ministry and his family expected him to return alive, but the story changed. We express our deepest condolence to the family for his loss," she said.
She said Corporal Ousmane was a highly dedicated citizen-soldier who served his country, adding that his dedication to service led him to be a part of the peacekeeping mission sent to help the sister West African country of Mali to defend herself against extremist jihadist militants.
"He used to work in the communications department and was sent to Mali to help the government in the process as a peacekeeper," she added.
On the arrival of the body at the James Spriggs Payne Airfield yesterday, soldiers of the Armed Forces of Liberia performed a military ceremony, after which the body of the late soldier was taken onboard a UN aircraft to Voinjama Central Mosque in Lofa County and later laid to rest at the Islamic Cemetery there.
The family of the late soldier, his widow along with ranking officers of the Armed Forces of Liberia escorted the body to pay their last respects to the fallen hero.
Ousmane received training in the following areas of soldiering: Military Occupation Specialties (November 21, 2013); US Air Force Certificate of Training-Networking, Operating System Server Function, Cabling, Wireless Connectivity and PC Maintenance, among others.
It may be recalled that on June 23, 2013 Liberia deployed its first platoon of soldiers as part of the peacekeeping troops of the United Nations Mission in Mali, with the second and third deployed on June 25, 2015 and September 2, 2016 respectively.