Coast Guard, family, friends remember fallen comrade

The family of Lt. Devin Hepner sat in the front row at the U.S. Coast Guard’s Air Station Astoria Tuesday, surrounded by servicemen in dress blues packing the cavernous hangars to honor a fallen comrade.

The Coast Guard memorialized Hepner, 34, a marine inspector from Mendon, Utah, who was based in Warrenton. He died of pulmonary embolism Jan. 16 while at an investigating officer course in Training Center Yorktown, Virginia.

The ceremony included commanders from Hepner’s Marine Safety Unit Portland, Sector Columbia River and District 13, which oversees the Pacific Northwest. Hepner’s fellow guardsmen paid tribute, led prayers, read scripture and fired off a three-volley salute.

“It was nothing short of amazing,” said Hepner’s father, Ron, of the support the Coast Guard has shown his family, helping care for his son’s wife, Erin, and four daughters Samantha, Aurora, Audrey and Juniper.

The family flew in from Idaho, Utah and Washington state for the memorial.

Hepner’s mother, Carolee, said it meant a lot to the family when his close friend and former comrade in officer candidate school, Lt. j.g. Ross Phillips, traveled from Honolulu to accompany Hepner’s body from Newport News, Virginia, to Salt Lake City.

At the airport, an honor guard watched over the transfer to a hearse for the drive to Mendon, where another honor guard acted as pallbearers at his funeral and performed a 21-gun salute.

“The time that I spent in the military, we had each other’s backs,” Hepner’s father said. “But, we didn’t always have each other’s families’ backs.”

Phillips, one of several