Procession from Jacksonville airport to hometown of Waycross will honor fallen soldier Kennedy Sanders

A local soldier who was killed in the line of duty overseas will be remembered Saturday during a funeral service in her native Waycross, Georgia.

The remains of 24-year-old Army Sgt. Kennedy Sanders will arrive at Jacksonville International Airport at noon Wednesday. She will be escorted by a procession from the airport to Georgia, and hundreds are expected to line the streets along the route to pay their respects.

That route is designed to carry Sanders past her Waycross home on Eads Street before ending at Fluker Funeral Home on Ossie Davis Parkway. Waycross officials have announced that a section of Eads Street will be renamed Kennedy L. Sanders Way, and June 30 will be known as “Kennedy L. Sanders Day.”

Sanders was one of three soldiers killed during a drone strike in Jordan two weeks ago. President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden were at Dover Air Force Base earlier this month to witness the return of Sanders and the two other Georgia soldiers killed in that strike.

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President Biden called Sanders’ parents and told them she was being posthumously promoted from specialist to sergeant. They were moved and said they appreciate what the president is doing for veterans.

Sanders’ parents told News4JAX she was mini but mighty, athletic and determined to succeed. They also said she was excited to serve her country and was set to return from deployment in August.

They said the pain of losing her is unbearable.

“I’m still in disbelief. I’m just angry, and I’m upset that I’ll never be able to see my baby again,” her mother, Oneida Oliver-Sanders said. “I won’t be able to touch her, hug her, and see her. I’m anxious because I don’t know what kind of state she’ll be in when we do get to see her.”

MORE: ‘I’m still in disbelief’: Parents grieving loss of daughter killed in Jordan drone strike receive call from Biden

Sanders was studying to become an X-ray technician and also coached children’s soccer and basketball. Her loss has punctured the community, as everyone shares their fond memories of Sanders.

Larona McClain, a family friend, recalled a time when Sanders got injured while playing softball but showed resilience.

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“I remember us being in Vidalia with our travel team for football, and as tiny as she was in the outfield, a ball had hit her and it messed up her tooth. She went and got that tooth fixed and came back the next day stronger than ever. […] I can remember her being small and strong-willed and just courageous in everything she did,” McClain said.

Wednesday’s procession route from the airport will turn onto Lem Turner, then make a right onto U.S. 1, which will take Sanders into Waycross, where the procession will wind through town and end at the funeral home.

From there, Sanders will lie in state from 1-8 p.m. Friday at C.C. McCray City Auditorium. Supporters are encouraged to pay their respects at the public viewing, following a schedule organized by the first letter of their last name:

(A-F): 1-3 p.m.(G-L): 3-5 p.m.(M-R): 5-7 p.m.(S-Z): 7-8 p.m.

Also, the city of Waycross has declared Friday “Wear Purple Day” in honor of Sanders, whose favorite color was purple.

Sanders’ funeral service is scheduled for 11 a.m. Saturday at the Ware County Middle School Auditorium. It will be followed by another procession through Waycross to Oakland Cemetery on Alice Street, where Sanders will be laid to rest.

In lieu of flowers, the Sanders family has asked for contributions to be made via Zelle to Oneida Oliver-Sanders at

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