MINNEAPOLIS -- It was a day loved ones waited 30 years for. The first Minnesotan and Native American killed in Operation Desert Storm in the Persian Gulf War was finally laid to rest at Fort Snelling National Cemetery.
Corp. Stephen Eric Bentlzin was killed in action on January 29, 1991. On Monday, he was given a full military burial.
For Barbara Anderson and her family, this rush of emotion is a long time coming.
"I can't find the words to say just what I feel," Anderson said. "I'm just so proud of him for what he did and what he did for our country."
Bentlzin joined the Marines right out of high school.
"He was infantry, he was a scout," Anderson said.
His mother says his job was fitting, as Native Americans always had a scout to survey the area to make sure others would be safe to travel through.
Bentlzin was 23 years old, and four months away from the end of his tour of duty, when he was killed.
"Just outside of Kohji, and they were on this patrol and they ran into some Iraqi soldiers coming in tanks," she said.
Originally, his next of kin decided not to give Bentlzin military honors. For decades, his mother fought to change that. She was there Monday for the 21-gun salute, and the playing of "Taps" -- a fitting end to this hero's journey.
"I didn't realize how overcome I would feel. I've been carrying this grief all these years, and now it's finally going to happen and I'm so happy for it, but at the same time it's all so sad. It's like he just died, you know, instead of all these years that have gone by," she said.
The family says it will do better and never forget the sacrifice this Marine and other service members buried here made.
Bentlzin's family was presented an eagle's feather from the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe Nation -- an honor in the Native American Culture.
A letter from President Joe Biden and the original burial flag were also presented to the family Monday.
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