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Student Cadets Lead Military Funeral For Beloved ROTC Instructor

ST. GEORGE, Utah – Military funerals come with the time-honored tradition they deserve, and the funeral for Air Force Senior Master Sergeant and ROTC instructor Morgan Hager Tuesday morning was no different.

“He loved his cadets and his cadets loved him,” said Mark Hager, who is Morgan’s older brother.

That is until you looked at those in uniform performing honor guard duties for the service and realized they’re so young.

Morgan Hager died of a heart attack last week. 

After 25 years in the Air Force, Hager could have had a funeral service lead by current military members. 

Dixie High School cadets look sharp for ROTC instructor’s military funeral honors. (KSL TV)

However, for the past 10 years, he was an instructor for the Dixie High School Air Force Junior ROTC program, mentoring more than 2,000 cadets. 

Hager’s family figured, why not let his students do the service? 

“They were more important to him,” said Mark Hager. “It meant more to him than nationally being done.” 

A firing team prepares for a gun salute to honor Senior Master Sergeant Morgan Hager. (KSL TV)

Talk about an assignment where the cadets wanted a perfect score. 

Not only did they perform a gun salute and play taps, but they also folded the flag and presented it to Hager’s wife. 

“Being able to perform military honors for a man like Hager is amazing,” said cadet Connor Byrnes. 

An ROTC cadet performs taps at the funeral for Senior Master Sergeant Morgan Hager. (KSL TV)

Byrnes said Hager was the kind of man you respected right away, who always was a professional teacher and mentor, as well as a friend. 

It’s why several of his former students also came to the Tonaquint Cemetery to help conduct the funeral service. 

“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to be able to perform this kind of service for someone you love and care about and you cherish,” said Byrnes. “We were honored to be a part of it.” 

Even though the service marked the end of Hager’s time in this world, there’s no doubt he lives on in others. 

Hager left behind a wife, children, and grandchildren.

“He would be so proud,” said Mark Hager. “This is the way he would’ve wanted it.”

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