Eleven cannons boomed like thunder over a rain-soaked Arlington National Cemetery Wednesday morning as military personnel, friends and family gathered to pay their final respects to Brig. Gen. Terence J. Hildner, a one-star general from Fairfax County who died in Afghanistan.
Hildner, 49, was found dead in his Kabul sleeping quarters Feb. 3, slumped in a chair where he appeared to have been playing a video game the night before.
Although a cause of death has not been declared, the husband and father of four appears to have died of natural causes, according to officials.
Nearly one month after his death, a riderless horse and platoon of escorts led the procession of loved ones, a sea of black overcoats and colorful umbrellas, down Eisenhower Drive.
A horse-drawn caisson carried Hildner’s casket, shrouded in an American flag, to the burial site and a bugler played the traditional “Taps.”
Hildner, the highest ranking officer to die during the war in Afghanistan, was buried in section 60 of the cemetery with full military honors, including the 11-cannon salute and three rifle volleys by a firing party.
Hildner is survived by his widow, Cindy; his two daughters, Brittany and Julie; two sons, Jonathan and Ryan; and his parents, Robert and Susan. Each received a folded American flag in Hildner’s honor.
“It’s too bad,” Robert Hildner, a retired Air Force colonel in Port Tobacco, Md., told the Post following his son’s death.
“He was very much a rising star in the military... From the Irish side of the family, he inherited a sense of humor and exuberance about life. And from the German side, a singularity of purpose and a very keen analytical mind.”
Terence Hildner’s 30-year military career included tours in Germany, where he conducted the last U.S. patrol along the East-West border before German reunification, and in Kuwait and Iraq, commanding troops during the Persian Gulf War.
He earned several service medals, including two Bronze Stars.
Hildner deployed to Afghanistan in December as the commander of the 13th Expeditionary Sustainment Command at Fort Hood. He assisted the NATO training mission, managing and distributing military supplies.
According to military records, Hildner is one of about 1,850 American service members who have died in Afghanistan since 2001, including about 375 deaths from accidents and natural causes.