HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNews) - The Army is investigating after a 19-year-old soldier from Hawaii died shortly after starting basic training at Fort Sill in Oklahoma.
Family members identified the soldier as Austin Williander, a 2019 graduate of Waianae High School. They said they were told he died Aug. 26 after suffering heat stroke.
“I wouldn’t imagine anything like that would happen to my nephew because I saw my nephew in the future as our hope and everything,” said Jene Williander, Austin’s aunt.
Williander’s body was flown to Honolulu on Thursday.
Draped with the American flag, the soldier’s casket was met by his siblings and cousins ― all wearing black ― as it arrived at Woolsey Mortuary.
Loved ones say the teen was smart, big-hearted, and joined the Army in hopes of creating a better life for himself and his family. He’d planned to serve as a fire support specialist.
“His goal was to buy a house for his mom and dad. That was his goal,” said Jene Williander.
“He was going to go far,” said cousin Sylvester Williander. “When he told me he’s going into military training, I jumped for joy. I couldn’t be more proud of him.”
In a statement, the Army did not confirm the details of Williander’s death.
A private ceremony was held Thursday for the family, but a public memorial service is scheduled for Sept. 15.
“The day he left for training, we expected him to see him come back,” said aunt, Ina Paul. “We were picturing him coming back in the future, but we didn’t think he’d come back in a different way.”