Mount Pleasant man receives plane-side honors

By Lia Sestric

JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) -- James "Will" Coker made his final return to Charleston Air Force Base on Wednesday where he worked for 20 years.

More than two dozen family members waited to say goodbye their loved one's flag-draped coffin.

A white charter plane from Dover Air Force escorted the coffin to Charleston. Family members surrounded the coffin and embraced one another.

59-year-old Coker was killed on September 5th in Kabul, Afghanistan where he worked as a Pentagon contracted civilian. According to the Department of Defense, Coker was kidnapped from a power plant where he was working, and later strangled.

Joint Base Charleston Honor Guard gave a final salute to Coker's casket before it took off in black hearse.

His loss has drawn sympathy from all over -- it has really hit hard locally in his hometown of Mount Pleasant. Ruby Randall lived across the street from Coker for the last seven years. She said the last time she saw Coker was three months ago, before he left for Afghanistan.

"It was just about prior to him going to Afghanistan," she said. "He was working in the yard doing maintenance work on the house like what he normally does."

Randall said the news of Coker's death shocked her.

"I was very distraught. I just couldn't believe what had happened to him," she said.

Being his neighbor over the years, Randall learned who Coker really was as a person. She described him as a great humanitarian with a kind and gentle heart.

"He was a universal man because he traveled. He touched not only the people in this community, but I'm sure he touched so many globally as well."

Randall said she can't bear to look across the street at the home where Coker lived. To get her through the difficult time, she has a token to remember him by.

"I do have a little gift that he gave me," she said. Coker had given her a dish in a special box both from Africa. "He brought that from Africa and decided to give that to me. So I treasure, and plan to treasure it even more now."