Army, family pay tribute to slain soldier Kelli Bordeaux

FORT BRAGG, N.C. (WTVD) -- First Sergeant Arnie Cobos began roll call near 1445 hours in Fort Bragg's All American Chapel.

"Specialist Bordeaux."

"Specialist Kelli Bordeaux."

"Specialist Kelli Marie Bordeaux."


A chilling silence following each call was only cut by quiet cries from the slain soldier's family and comrades.

This wasn't the closure they'd hoped for.

"We wanted Kelli home, but she really is home," said Bordeaux's battle buddy, SPC. Julianna Mannett. "She just got there before the rest of us."

Mannett was one soldier among many honoring Bordeaux, as her family and members of her 261st Multifunctional Battalion packed the chapel in a memorial service Wednesday afternoon.

The 23-year-old soldier's remains were recovered earlier this month, two years after she'd gone missing from the Froggy Bottoms bar off Ramsey Street in Fayetteville. Nicholas Holbert, the man charged with her kidnapping and murder, led investigators to Bordeaux's remains in a wooded area just miles from the bar.

On Wednesday, the young, combat medic was remembered for her enthusiasm, a bright smile and an intense drive to succeed. She aspired to become an officer.

"I tried to convince her not to go to the dark side," joked her friend, SGT. Kaydi Owens. "[But] I would have gladly saluted her."

"I know she's not lost, because heaven just gained another angel," Owens cried.

Some soldiers recalled the last time time they saw Bordeaux, following formation on Friday, April 13, 2012. Her squad leader, Dontae Gibson said they spoke about an upcoming barbeque, after Bordeaux left him a voicemail that afternoon.

"She teased me. She said, 'SGT. Gibson, always ignoring my phone calls. It's Specialist Bordeaux call me back.'"

"I listened to that voicemail about a hundred times after that weekend," said Gibson, who plans to dedicate his first airborne training jump to Bordeaux, who was excited about doing the same.

Bordeaux was a Private First Class, but Specialist promotable at the time she went missing. The U.S. Army recognizes her as a SPC. She joined the Army in the spring of 2011, and her first duty station was with the 601st Area Support Medical Company at Fort Bragg.

Bordeaux's family did not speak during the ceremony, but they cried at the feet of her combat boots. At one point her mother, Johnna Henson, embraced her portrait at the front of the chapel. Soldiers saluted her helmet and combat boots, surrounded by flags.

"We cherish her memory, embrace her spirit and try to live life as she did -- full of hope wonder and courage," said Battalion Commander, LTC. Heather Kness.

"Know that this is only the beginning of her new passage," said Bordeaux's platoon leader, 1LT. Annie Davis, as she spoke to the family.

Bordeaux's family will lay her to rest Saturday during a public service in her hometown of St. Cloud, Florida.

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