Wife of Georgia Army reservist killed in Jordan: ‘I feel proud’

Family takes part in Memorial Day ceremony for soldier killed in Jan. drone attack.
Staff Sgt. William Jerome Rivers was among three U.S. Army reservists killed in a Jan. 28 drone attack in Jordan.

Credit: Highto

Credit: Highto

Staff Sgt. William Jerome Rivers was among three U.S. Army reservists killed in a Jan. 28 drone attack in Jordan.

Darlene Rivers jokes that her husband loved to grill, even if wasn’t necessarily his specialty.

Barbecuing in the yard, watching his beloved Philadelphia Eagles and spending quality time with family is what brought Staff Sgt. William Jerome Rivers instant joy. Before his last deployment, Sgt. Rivers bought a massive new grill, and could not wait to play with his new toy at one of the family’s backyard hangs when he got back.

Sgt. Rivers never made it home.

On Jan. 28, Sgt. Rivers, 46, was one of three Army Reservists killed in a drone attack in Jordan. The deadly strike also took the lives of Spc. Breonna Alexsondria Moffett, 23, of Savannah, and Spc. Kennedy Ladon Sanders, 24, of Waycross. More than 40 other service members were injured. According to the U.S. Department of Defense, Rivers, Moffett and Sanders were in Jordan to support Operation Inherent Resolve, a mission fighting ISIS. The logistics support base where the attack happened is on the Syrian border.

Two days before Memorial Day, Darlene Rivers is standing with her son William Rivers Jr. at the Carroll County Veteran Memorial Park in Carrollton, just over 50 miles west of Atlanta. Men and women in uniform, neighbors and friends all approach the pair, offering condolences, hugs and kisses on the cheeks. They’re gathered for annual commemoration ceremony, honoring the lives of 350 local servicemen killed in action, dating back to The Civil War. At this year’s event, the Veterans Memorial Park Association is unveiling Sgt. Rivers’ name on the Wall of Honor for those killed in action.

“I feel proud,” she said, waiting out a harsh rain that delayed the program and forced organizers to move from the Memorial site to a covered office entrance close by. “Our community has really shown up. I’m glad they’re acknowledging his sacrifice. For me, Memorial Day has a different meaning now.”

The last few months are all running together for Darlene Rivers. There was the day two uniformed officers and a chaplain knocked on her front door with the news that her husband of 11 years was gone. There have been countless calls from friends, family, veterans, politicians, and news media, including “Good Morning America.”

A quiet, private person by nature, she is overwhelmed by the attention, and does not want to be photographed. She hasn’t spoken to press since having a bad experience in January., she said. “It’s hard, it’s fresh,” she said.

As the rain faded, giving way to the sun peeking through the clouds, retired Gen. Charles E. Wilhelm delivered his keynote address. Gen. Wilhelm shared a story questioning the phrase, “Happy Memorial Day!”

 Gen Charles Wilhelm, USMC retired, prays during the Memorial Day ceremony at Carroll County Veterans Memorial Park Saturday, May 25, 2024. (Steve Schaefer / AJC)

Credit: Steve Schaefer /

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Credit: Steve Schaefer /

“This is a commemoration. It is not a lighthearted day,” he said to those in attendance, Darlene Rivers looking on. “This is the kind of day that we’re thoughtful, we’re reflective, and we’re grateful for … all of who sacrificed their lives so that we could live in the way that we live in the country that we live in. “'

Wilhelm’s words rest heavy on Darlene Rivers, who finds strength and motivation in her surviving children. Her community has been there every step of the way, she said. Neighbors cut her grass.

She talks about meeting Sgt. Rivers in 2008. The girl from New York and the boy from Philly fell in love and moved south seven years later. She says the kids are doing all right. They don’t have a lot of questions about what happened.

Their son is set to throw out the ceremonial first pitch at the Atlanta Braves Memorial Day game against the Washington Nationals. He’s nervous about getting the technique down, but excited about honoring his dad.

Darlene Rivers says she keeps in touch with Moffett and Sanders’ families. She has also spoken with President Joe Biden a few times over the phone. First, he called to offer condolences. In the most recent conversation, she says the president promised her they will find out who was responsible for the drone strike and hold them accountable. With communication from military organizations and government officials, she’s getting up-to-date information on developments from the investigation.

Once the rain clears, it’s time for Darlene Rivers and her son to see Sgt. Rivers’ engraving on the KIA Wall. The family will also see an individual marble plaque on site, honoring Sgt. Rivers.

Before walking back to the Memorial site, Darlene Rivers stops to take in everyone and everything around her, “an unfortunate sorority” of women who’ve lost someone in service. They’ve got her back. She cracks a tiny smile and says, “We’re good.”